Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Where in the World is Osama bin Laden? Review

As a fan of Spurlock's Super Size Me and his FX TV show, 30 Days, I was fairly excited for his newest documentary effort. Unfortunately a lack of focus and some jokes in very poor taste/execution really derail Where in the World is Osama bin Laden. In premise Spurlock is supposed to visit various Middle Eastern countries on the hunt for bin Laden, presumably with more success than our military; in reality the film comes off as more of 'can't we all just get along?' sort of message movie. Filled with repetitive interviews beating you over the head with the 'we're not all that different in the Middle East' and 'not all Muslims are terrorists' messages, this docu lacks any real focus or driving force. As opposed to Super Size Me where we could gradually, and fascinatingly, follow the decline in Spurlock's health and his observations about the fast food industry; here we're hampered by biased interviews (Israelis come off particularly poorly throughout) and, since the ending is clear before it starts, a lack of anything to drive the story forward. Beyond that there just isn't really anything particularly new or interesting here. Spurlock's visits to horrid villages in Taliban country in Afghanistan are far more compelling than his more standard interviews, but even still they don't really provide any insight into the region or the complex situations with which we must deal. The film is furthered hampered by Spurlock's misguided attempt to, seemingly, present himself almost like a superhero on the hunt for bin Laden, reflected not only in awful video game inspired sequences but even in the film's poster. I also worry that the side story of Spurlock's wife's pregnancy while he's off in the Middle East will not mean a whole hell of a lot to people who haven't followed his other work. It's not a terrible idea for a documentary, it just seems like Spurlock didn't quite know how to pull off this concept and piece together a working documentary. It is neither the effective and scathing rebuke of American policy in the Middle East like No End in Sight, nor the humorous and exciting adventure the filmmaker's pitch. Spurlock should stick to simpler fair in the future, he manages those stories and realizations far more effectively.

Overall Score: 4/10

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