Genre: Documentary Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.
Release Date: April 18th, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Morgan Spurlock Actors: Morgan Spurlock
hat starts as a rather goofy, computer-animated, video game mockery transforms into mature investigative journalism as the film progresses, leading to ever more serious and eye-opening revelations. Juxtaposing light humor with the dark realities of current world affairs and foreign policies, “Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?” both informs and entertains with comedic creativity and an insightful view into a world with which few are familiar. And nothing less could be expected from the follow-up to the acclaimed “Super Size Me.”
With the world in the grip of an all-time high in terrorist attacks, and perpetual warfare in the Middle East, is it safe to raise a child? Well, in the U.S. it is, but documentarist Morgan Spurlock wants to know why, with all the marvels of modern technology at their disposal, the government can’t seem to locate one single man. Traveling from Egypt to Israel to Afghanistan and to even more dangerous Middle Eastern countries, Spurlock is determined to answer the multi-million dollar question – Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?
Spoofing the layout of a standard fighting video game, “Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?” unfolds with animated characters of Spurlock and Osama fighting in the style of “Mortal Kombat.” The film is then broken into five levels, based on the varying degree of danger at the places he’s scheduled to journey – Pakistan being the most hazardous locale. While the approach is understandable, at times the video game sound effects and animations grow tiresome, dissuading the viewer from taking the more serious parts of the film … seriously.
Unlike the initial parodying, which is a harmless trifle, Spurlock’s reason for going on his search for the most wanted man is a greater disappointment. Rather than trekking across the Middle East to enlighten audiences and inform them of the very real dangers and misunderstandings between cultures, he begins his search to cleanse the world for his soon-to-be-born child. In the larger picture, his child is just not an important enough reason for the viewer to feel attached to this adventure. And the constant cutaways back to his personal life – such as his wife worrying about his safety from the comfort of her home – is jarringly trivial. His goal of uncovering Osama should have been for the high-minded benefit of the viewer – not his own individual well-being.
Nevertheless, the information in the film is undoubtedly worthwhile, made curiously cinematic by the laughs and frights that alternate at a perfect pace. Attempting to show the humanity that many viewers believe to be completely removed from the Middle Eastern countries, Spurlock interviews regular, everyday people on the bustling streets of various towns. At a large indoor mall, it’s evident that everything is about the same as in the United States – except for the clothing and the language of the people that inhabit it. But his travels also take him to locations of extreme poverty – shantytowns that are devoid of basic amenities and that are the breeding grounds for desperate young men who can be easily recruited as terrorists. As Spurlock comes to realize, Osama is not an individual person, but an idea – which reaches beyond the death or discovery of a single man.
Whether viewers believe Spurlock’s cynical explanation of democracy, his baseball-card statistics about terrorists, or the choice footage of prejudiced people who refuse to talk, he does at least provide humorous commentary, jokes during survival training, and a relatively unbiased outlook. “It’s safe,” claims a U.S. soldier as he is guided into Afghanistan by a 21-gun escort. Revealing, among other amusing tidbits, that some Middle Easterners are fans of professional wrestling, although they believe it’s all real, and that Pakistan is the “Land of Hospitality,” despite a giant red warning sign on the outskirts of town that explains that “foreigners are not allowed beyond this point,” “Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?” manages to be generally more eye-opening than annoying.
– The Massie Twins