Just before the Fahrenheit propaganda juggernaut in summer 2004, do-it-to-yourselfer Morgan Spurlock hit the scene as the plausible next generation of Moorean showman. The McDonald’s death diet in Super Size Me yielded a good-natured combination of food industrial complex exposé, performance art and gross-out comedy. After spinning off the journo-reality TV series 30 Days, Spurlock pitched another show idea that was nixed, he has said, for being “too smart” — a kink he has worked out in his new movie.
Tacking center and down, Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden? finds Spurlock embellishing a faux-naïve average-Joe shtick that’s about as irritating and intermittently head-up-the-ass as Moore’s. A killer hook in search of any substance, the heavily constructed doc is a goodwill tour of the Middle East and Afghanistan, plus a wide-eyed primer linking American imperialism and terrorism. Cairo coeds, Moroccan slumdwellers and Afghan tribesmen inspire Spurlock to bromides (just like us, they love their families) and circa 2002 punditizing (poverty creates hijackers).
While Super Size Me functioned both factually and allegorically, the foregone conclusions of Spurlock’s second role-playing adventure make for something like a scripted travel-diary drama (or self-advertisement to host a travelogue show). The film opens with the reducto-ad-absurdum embrace of action-movie unilateralism, replete with disarmingly juvenile video game graphics of OBL, and it ends with the throwing up of hands and cocooning when daddyhood looms.
The populist intent of Spurlock’s pose is to demonstrate and identify with that national feeling of being overwhelmed, which is both aggravated by and echoing absent leadership and blundering military strategy. But he’s too disingenuous, his train of thought feels stale, and his carefully cushioned message dated.