Three stars (out of five). Rating: PG-13, for profanity
By Derrick Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 4.25.08
Buy DVD: Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden?
During World War II, the beloved Warner Bros. cartoon characters joined the propaganda effort in a series of wincingly hilarious shorts that were so caustic and racist that they tend to be repressed in these more enlightened times.
|No matter how dire their circumstances, most of the people encountered by|
Morgan Spurlock, far right, insist on sharing a meal while chatting about their
lives and hopes — and their view of terrorists who cite religious convictions.
Back then, though, cartoons such as Confessions of a Nutzy Spy, Tokio Jokio and (ouch) Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips served a legitimate purpose: They belittled — and therefore cut down to size — an essentially faceless enemy that had, in the minds of frightened Americans, become larger than life.
Puncture the bully's balloon, and suddenly he's not so ferocious.
Documentarian Morgan Spurlock, fresh from his impressive battle with the fast food industry in Super Size Me, now has set his sights on the world's most notorious terrorist, in Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden? Spurlock's intentions are good, but the results are uneven at best.
The lessons also aren't as eye-opening; it's hard to forget the striking image of all those bags of sugar, which represented Spurlock's intake of the sweet stuff during a month of binge-burgering. No single scene in this new film resonates as well.
Since the events of Super Size Me, the filmmaker has married then-girlfriend Alex, the counter-culture vegan who played such an important role during Morgan's month-long ordeal with burgers, fries and soft drinks.
Alex's developing pregnancy is just as crucial a part of Where in the World as her husband's journey of discovery about Bin Laden, which takes him to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Palestine, Morocco and Jordan.
His film's title notwithstanding, Spurlock hasn't any more expectation of actually finding Bin Laden than Michael Moore had of obtaining an audience with General Motors chairman Roger Smith, in 1989's Roger & Me. The point is the trip itself, and the people encountered along the way.
Spurlock also skewers U.S. arrogance, although generally with the sort of wink and nod that makes such an attitude more palatable.
"If I've learned anything from more than 30 years of movie-watching," he says, prior to embarking on his journey, "it's that if the world needs saving, it's best done by one lonely guy, willing to face danger head-on, and take it down, action-hero style."
Spurlock knows what we think of Bin Laden and al-Qaida; he wants to learn what families, journalists, rug merchants and other everyday civilians think of the terrorist in the countries that birthed, shaped and continue to nurture him and his followers.