It'll come as no surprise to learn that Morgan 'Super Size Me' Spurlock's quest to locate the most wanted man in the world drew a blank. Nor will one be shocked to hear that the most complete answers to his infantile question were either "somewhere in Pakistan" or "somewhere in Afghanistan".
Spurlock, an affable, likeable character, who stems from the Louis Theroux world of documentary maker, is known to buoy his subject matter with his own persona. The Oscar-nominated 'Super Size Me' worked, not only because it gave fascinating insight into the speed at which fast food can affect one's health, but also because of Spurlock's jovial, everyman personality. With 'Where in the World...' however, his personality is all that he has to go on.
Scripting his documentary around the impending birth of his first child, 'Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?' follows Spurlock on his half-hearted attempt to locate the elusive Al-Qaeda leader. Hi journey takes him to Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Morocco, where we learn little we were not already aware of. Stretching out his film, Spurlock tells us he'll begin by delving into Bin Laden's mind, yet we are given only the most rudimentary details to his background. Nothing new is unearthed.
Where Spurlock excels is as an interviewer. Here he manages to draw out the most emotive, humanistic responses to his questions. Yet it becomes apparent early on that his specific questions will not progress with the film, and so we are given a series of repetitive interviews from country to country. Increasingly the focus is lost.
With a distinct lack of factual detail, or indeed a hunt for Bin Laden, it is Spurlock's ability to entertain that will keep bums on seats. There is little detail as to where Bin Laden may be; who may know where he is; likelihood of his death, etc. In effect, Spurlock poses the question without ever delivering any answers. Asking a Moroccan carpet salesman where Bin Laden is (as Spurlock does in the movie) is about as effective as asking your neighbour, and the film would undoubtedly have benefited from a harder edge.
Like 'Super Size Me', Spurlock builds his film around a gimmicky idea. However, unlike his 2004 movie, nothing fresh is offered here. Four years ago we may have known fast food is bad for you, but the extent to which Spurlock highlighted it is, was insightful and entertaining viewing. We came out of 'Super Size Me' more aware of the health risks posed by a diet solely consisting of fast food .By way of contrast, we come out of 'Where in the World…' knowing little more about Bin Laden or the Middle East's fate.
Though interesting at times (especially when Spurlock visits Israel), 'Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?' is more a travel film than a documentary. It's entertaining for sure spending time with Spurlock as he travels the Middle East, though we learn nothing here that couldn't have been gleaned from reading a newspaper circa October/ November 2001. Enter the cinema in this frame of mind, and sure Spurlock's Middle Eastern romp will prove an enjoyable way to pass an hour-and-a-half but don't expect to emerge in any way enlightened.