After a string of movies with rather pointed and searing indictments of everything from General Motors to health care, Michael Moore is back with his first movie in six years that — believe it or not — represents a side of him we haven’t seen in movies before: a kinder and gentler Moore. The Oscar- and Palme d’Or-winning director of landmark documentaries like Bowling For Columbine, Fahrenheit 911 and Roger And Me has decided to put his focus on the good side of humanity in Where To Invade Next.

As I say in my video review (click the link above to watch), that title can be apete hammond review badge little deceptive as the invading in this case is in European countries like France, Italy and Finland. What Moore does so cleverly here is to take his American flag and plant it firmly in countries that he says have stolen great American ideas that the U.S. has seemingly cast aside. This is an idealistic and hopeful look at the world from a man not known for that in previous movies that offered sharp, if often satirical, jabs to the current state of affairs in America. Moore shot this entire film in complete secrecy and no one had a clue what he was serving up until it debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in September where it was very warmly received.

In Where To Invade Next, Moore visits France and learns about the sophisticated cuisine served in public schools as well as mandatory sex education that has been responsible for reducing teen pregnancies there. He goes to Italy and talks to factory workers who get two-hour lunches every day and eight weeks’ paid vacation. In Finland, he finds there is no homework since that country is more interested in a rounded education that doesn’t include standardized tests. In Slovenia, there is no college tuition — everyone gets an education for free. It goes on and on, with remarkable results for everything from universal health care to prisons.

As usual Moore puts a wry spin on all of this but seems genuinely interested in bringing all of these ideas back into the spotlight here in America. It’s a grand experiment from a man who is often controversial to say the least. Here he seems to be making a nonpartisan bid to bring back common sense and a better life for all. As he said when they film debuted in Toronto, he is not interested in picking the weeds this time, only the flowers. That probably explains why he conveniently omits negative issues like the vast unemployment in Italy that prevents many citizens from ever being able to reap the rewards of all that vacation time. No, this is the happy Michael Moore, and his film is vastly amusing and eye-opening.

Where To Invade Next, which has been short-listed for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar, plays for a one-week qualifying run starting Wednesday before opening nationwide February 12. The distributor is the still-unnamed new company formed by former Radius chiefs Tom Quinn and Jason Janego along with Alamo Drafthouse’s Tim League.

Do you plan to see Where To Invade Next? Let us know what you think.