Morgan Spurlock, the daredevil who lived on Big Macs for a month for the 2004 hit Super Size Me, returns — this time expanding his horizons rather than his girth. A paraphrase of the title of a venerable computer game, Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden? presents Spurlock's fact-finding tour of the Middle East and beyond.
An affable action hero in search of the planet's arch-supervillain, Spurlock is less irritating than his obvious model, Michael Moore, but also less politically astute.
His pursuit of bin Laden arose from his new family situation: Mrs. Spurlock — or, as she is characterized in the press notes, "vegan wife Healthy Chef Alexandra Jamieson" — is pregnant. Impending fatherhood has rocked Spurlock's world, stimulating his sudden concern for its perilous state.
Spurlock lands first in Egypt, hoping to interview the uncle of bin Laden's mentor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and thus understand the Al-Qaeda mind-set. Uncle declines to talk, but Spurlock has no difficulty finding schoolgirls who think America is at war with Egypt, or religious zealots who tell him: "We pray to heaven to destroy you." Others are more moderate: Spurlock is invited to dinner by a friendly Moroccan family; in the West Bank, he finds Palestinians who reject, and even denounce, bin Laden, as well as an Israeli who foresees a rational settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Soon after, Spurlock visits an ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood, where the local Haredim push him off the sidewalk and chase away his crew.
Theocratic culture shock is even more severe in bin Laden's native Saudi Arabia, which, according to Spurlock, makes every other Arab state seem "progressive by comparison." This sequence is most illuminating precisely because nothing is revealed. Asked how they view the United States, the kids decline to express any opinion at all; when Spurlock switches gears to inquire what they are taught about Israel, the school official who is monitoring the exchange leaps into action: "Stop your camera!"
Will this all-American self-identified goofball achieve the scoop of the century, penetrate the Forbidden Zone, and track Osama to his lair? Can he make it back to Brooklyn in time for the birth of his child? Not exactly suspenseful, this is a movie where human interest rules: Like a novice teacher staying a lesson plan ahead of his class, Spurlock is prepared for the day he can teach little Laken James Spurlock that people are people wherever you go.
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