Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden?
- C+ Community Grade
- Director: Morgan Spurlock
- Running time: 93 minutes
Enjoying the latest advocacy doc from Super Size Me writer-director Morgan Spurlock involves a number of mental gymnastics. Viewers are supposed to accept that Spurlock is in emotional agonies about missing out on his wife's first pregnancy, even though he skipped out during those months to travel to hotspots in the Middle East and make an essentially comedic film about trying to locate Osama bin Laden. They're supposed to accept that bin Laden is a serious threat, while still chuckling as Spurlock reduces him into a videogame character, fighting Spurlock in a trailer park, and a cartoon character, dancing mockingly to "U Can't Touch This." Most importantly, they're supposed to be amused by Spurlock's silly antics—like slipping "Do you know where Osama is?" into casual conversations, or randomly calling bin Ladens from the Saudi Arabian phone book—while simultaneously taking him seriously as a journalistic investigator unearthing shocking truths about people in the likes of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Egypt.
The main "shocking" truth—and the film's message—is that people in the Middle East are much like people in America, politically trapped by loudmouthed extremists on both sides of any issue, but essentially willing to believe the best about humanity the world over. The affirming message gives Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden? a warm, fuzzy, pleasantly inclusive center. But that center is heavily coated with a numbing barrage of Michael Moore stunt journalism, dumbed-down history lectures, and a bright candy shell of animation and self-satisfied jokes. Even more so than in Super Size Me—which applied the same tactics, but to more appropriately trivial issues—Where In The World is a conversation-starter for ADD-stricken adolescents who can't bear to think about one thing for too long, or too deeply.
There's a lot to like amid Where In The World's bouncy amiability. Spurlock remains engaging and playfully funny, at least when he isn't repeatedly trying to mine pathos out of the fact that he voluntarily left home while his first child develops. And while the film's gags don't always jibe with its sincere interviews of Middle Eastern citizens, or its worrisome encounters with the soldiers serving in dangerous territory—the constantly shifting tone provides as many hit bits as misses. The primary problems are the same ones that plague Moore: the disingenuous yet snotty tone, and the way Spurlock demands that viewers giggle at his flippant adolescent humor one minute, and trust his sincerity a moment later. At least Spurlock's messages are generally simple enough that it's easy to trust his motives and conclusions. But sometimes being on his side is a little embarrassing.