Sorry for getting you on a Department of Homeland Security watchlist, but that’s the name of Morgan Spurlock’s (Super-Size Me, “30 Days”) new documentary, where instead of eating McDonald’s until his liver explodes, he goes to places where Americans are told we’ll lose our heads, in search of the world’s most wanted man, whom the Bush administration has been unable to capture, because … “it’s not important.” We’ve got better things to do like fight the insurgency we created, and we couldn’t spare the extra troops when we thought we had bin Laden cornered in Tora Bora, so we hired locals to kill him. That worked out well.
Spurlock’s documentaries can’t be taken totally seriously and are never straightforward. People who responded to Super-Size Me with “duh, of course eating McDonald’s every day will make you fat”– or worse, the people who ate tiny servings and didn’t gain weight in order to disprove him– both missed the point; of course moderation or strict willpower will keep you healthy. What he was reminding us was that we’re bombarded nonstop by advertisements by purveyors of unhealthy food, and it’s usually cheaper or more convenient than what we’re supposed to be eating.
This documentary goes a bit further, and I think it is less successful in what it wants to convey, but it is fun to watch. I like Spurlock’s movie persona, and if you don’t mind watching theater, this can be an enjoyable film. Of course, it preaches to the choir, really. Sort of like when Sean Penn went to Iraq to show us they weren’t all America-hating fanatics, it’s proving something that reasonable people have already figured out; that your average person just wants to be left alone, and if they had their druthers, would like their fellows to stop blowing each other up.
He gets the idea to go looking for bin Laden when his wife is pregnant with their soon to be daughter; after all, shouldn’t he make the world safer for his unborn child, by going after the world’s most dangerous man? He introduces this prank with some garish and goofy visuals, such as a video game where he strangles bin Laden with his fu manchu mustache, and a video of bin Laden dancing to “Can’t Touch This,” since we haven’t found him in the seven years since 9/11. These set the tone. The movie will get serious here and there, but it’s hardly intentional. He wants an excuse to fly around the Middle East asking people what they think of the War on Terror, which has made acts of terrorism skyrocket around the world and drain our pockets of nearly a trillion dollars in the process.
Spurlock is likable and enjoyable to watch as he converses with average Muhammads from Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Afghanistan and Pakistan. He even makes a mullah laugh, the same guy who earlier was calling death to be rained on America and Israel. He’s a big friendly doofus, and the only times he gets into trouble are in Saudi Arabia, when he interviews some teenage schoolkids with government permission, and gets abruptly stopped when he asks what they’re taught about Jews. On the other end of the spectrum, the only neighborhood he gets chased out of is an Orthodox Jewish one in Israel, where people shout threats and throw water balloons.
Egyptians talk about their shitty government, how they don’t bother getting involved because they know it’s rigged; in impoverished areas he sees what little good millions of U.N. dollars are doing, when the money is siphoned away by local and international corruption. We see the oppressive poverty in areas where bombers are recruited, and how someone with no hope might blow themselves up just to get their family some money. He also hangs out with our troops in Afghanistan, gets to shoot a Ma Deuce and an RPG, and talks to folks in a remote village until an ambush report forces them out.
Unfortunately, it’s not that informative for anyone who’ll see it intentionally, but it is entertaining. We get a thirty-second recap of our history of supporting “enemies of our enemies,” and other meddling. If you already know your history, it’s pretty patronizing and doesn’t offer any solutions; he asks why we didn’t capture bin Laden when we might have, but also admits that his capture would likely change nothing. So if you’re in the mood to see the mustache dude who eat Big Macs all day fly to McNuggetstan, it’s easy entertainment. Michael Moore lite- not as strident, without as forceful an agenda. And of course light in the weight department too.