"Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?" (NR)
1 1/2 stars out of 4
In 2004, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock all but anointed himself as the spiritual heir to Michael Moore. "Super Size Me," Spurlock's scathing yet humorous indictment of the fast-food industry did great at the box office and received an Oscar nomination. Just how much of "Super Size Me" was true is still unclear, but the documentary established Spurlock as a guy who, like Moore, realizes a funny and entertaining movie will do more business than a dry and boring one.
For his sophomore effort, Spurlock tackles a much more serious subject - the highest profile fugitive in human history. How could one possibly make a funny movie about Osama bin Laden? For 10 strong minutes, Spurlock does just that. With some spiffy CGI artwork and razor sharp editing, he immediately ropes in the audience and actually has us laughing.
Then the other shoe drops.
The movie isn't about bin Laden at all. It's about Spurlock, his pregnant wife, his unborn child and his lead-footed attempt to become the next Mike Wallace by way of Katie Couric or Matt Lauer.
Again following Moore's lead - not the greatest idea for an alleged impartial filmmaker - Spurlock makes himself the center of focus. After the intro he includes a passage in which he trains as if preparing for a marathon or championship fight and is tutored in anti-terrorist/
self-defense strategies. It's all show. The most strenuous thing Spurlock does during the film is to sprint into a waiting army tank under tight military guard.
For the remainder of the movie, Spurlock conducts man-on-the-street interviews in Egypt, Morocco, Israel, Saudi Arabia and finally, Afghanistan. Each interview is with peace-loving people and all are interchangeable, with the exception of a shady and obviously wealthy Saudi man who is as frank as could be expected regarding his many friends who have gone on to be suicide bombers.
Whether the interview is going good or bad, Spurlock ends each with an inquiry on bin Laden's whereabouts. Does he really think he'll ever get an honest or direct answer? It's a weak punch line that only grows staler through repetition.
The most interesting aspects of the film are the reactions Spurlock gets in what are obviously dumb luck situations with perceived U.S. allies. While greeted with guarded courtesy everywhere else, Spurlock is treated as a virtual pariah in Saudi Arabia and an area of Israel populated by Hasidic Jews. If it weren't for the intervention of local police, the Hasidic crowd would have thrashed Spurlock, if not actually killed him. By not politely excusing himself when it became clear he wasn't welcomed only confirms this as a vanity project and not a news-gathering endeavor.
Spurlock is not a true documentarian, but rather a self-absorbed sensationalist who is more enamored with the limelight than unearthing the truth. The sorry part about all of this is that the movie will be viewed as the gospel truth by too many people. (The Weinstein Co.)