Review

Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden? Review

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Apr 18, 2008 | 4:18am EDT

With his Oscar nominated documentary attacking the fast food industry Super Size Me filmmaker Morgan Spurlock--who ate McDonalds hamburgers non-stop for a month--found the perfect subject matter in which to insert his everyman persona. He repeated the formula every week on his cable series 30 Days and has now returned to the big screen to try it again this time as an American citizen travelling to the Middle East to do what the Government can’t: find Osama Bin Laden. Unfortunately using the war on terror as a vehicle for comedy is at best uneven and at worst tasteless. Spurlock leaves his very pregnant wife at home as he travels to Jordan Egypt Israel Afghanistan Saudi Arabia and Pakistan on a mission to find the famed 9/11 mastermind and make the world a better place for his soon-to-be-born baby. Before he hits the road we watch him mug for the cameras as he gets shots and trains to fight terrorists ‘Rambo-style’. Oy. The bulk of the film finds him alternately asking average joes on the streets if they have seen Osama in the neighborhood lately and worrying about getting back in time for his kid’s birth. As his journey proceeds he gets progressively more serious and philosophical a turn that doesn’t jive with the film’s more whimsical earlier portions. As this is technically a documentary acting doesn’t apply except Spurlock really is playing a character he honed in Super Size Me and his series the everyday guy who inserts himself into unfamiliar places and lifestyles in order to make a point. He’s Michael Moore-light literally and figuratively--an approach that has proven to be amusing in the past but here just feels wrong. His goal apparently is to show that people are really all just the same around the world--same concerns same fears and what really matters in the end is making it a safe place for your own family. Nice thoughts Morgan but it doesn’t really work this time around. Spurlock stars co-writes and directs using a tiresome framing device of a video game that helps us figure out which countries he is in at any given time. As director his main goal seems to be keeping the camera on himself pretending that Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? is about anything other than Morgan Spurlock goes Middle Eastern. There are some memorable human encounters along the way specifically a local who wants to turn the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan--once thought to be the hiding place of Bin Laden--into an amusement park celebrating that fact. Low point is an uncomfortable sequence focusing on Israeli extremists trying to kick Spurlock out of their occupied territory letting him play the victim without shedding any light on why they react with such hatred towards Westerners. As with so much of his film you’re just left scratching your head and moving on to the next segment of a film that might better be titled What in the World Was Morgan Spurlock Thinking?

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