Morgan Spurlock investigates

Looking altogether trimmer after the calorific excesses of Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock decides that he wants to make the world a safer place for his unborn child. So does he campaign for extra security in the local schools and nurseries? Or attempt to get more speed bumps and crossings built on his road? Nope, he heads to the Middle East in search of Osama Bin Laden.

Spurlock employs his more substantial budget on both entertaining diversions (video game animations, depicting the world’s most wanted men in baseball card form, comedy dance routines) and necessary preparation for his trip (learning how not to die). It’s fair to say that the chances of Spurlock catching Bin Laden are roughly equal to the odds of The Mars Volta collaborating with Girls Aloud, but this film is more about the adventure and Spurlock’s one-manned satire of Hollywood superheroes.

When Spurlock arrives in the Middle East, he fails to learn much beyond – surprise, surprise – that most ordinary people are actually pretty decent and hate both Bin Laden and Bush. Not everyone is quite as welcoming, and a few extremists are expectedly illogically headstrong in their beliefs, but our handlebar-moustached hero is generally in safe hands in the area’s biggest cities. It’s only when he visits the outskirts of Pakistan when things get hairy as an army patrol group guide his mission to meet the locals.

But that’s not all! Spurlock cuts his investigations with lovey-dovey footage of he and his wife speaking by telephone, with both parties telling the other how much they’re missed and speculating as to whether he’ll be back home by the time the baby is born. It’s sweet enough to rot your teeth and give you brain damage – surely one such scene would’ve sufficed?

It would be mean spirited to say that Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden makes Star Wars look like a microcosmical study of intercultural conflict and socio-political history. Sure, this isn’t going to tax the brain cells of anyone with even a passing interest in the issues at hands. But Spurlock presents the basic issues with enough clarity to engage newcomers and to (just about) avoid insult the intelligence of those with a more detailed knowledge bank. His main selling point – himself – again works wonders, with his engaging presentation, quick wit and matey persona all prevalent in abundance.

To be brutally honest, Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden falls short of other similarly comic mainstream documentaries of recent years, and its audience surely can’t extend much beyond left-leaning film goers? Regardless, fans of Spurlock, Michael Moore, Nick Broomfield and Louis Theroux should find plenty to enjoy in spite of the film’s occasional shortcomings.

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