Sequelizing documentaries doesn’t have to be a distasteful practice (see Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, Michael Apted’s 7 Up series and Marcel Ophuls’s The Sorrow, The Pity, The Bloopers and the Practical Jokes), but the only follow-up Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11* requires is a clarifying of its muddled thesis. Of all the awful Bush-bashing docs from that delightfully contentious year of 2004, Moore’s rambling diatribe against all manner of executive office misbehavior was one of the most objectionable (if only because its prevarications came wrapped in a more aesthetically pleasing package than an easily dismissable piece of shit like Harry Thomason’s The Hunting of the President). While righteously indignant essayists like Naomi Klein were dutifully amassing evidence against the neo-conservative agenda in Iraq, Moore lazily attacked the appearance of collusion between the Bushes and the bin Ladens; when that dicey claim yielded nothing but more questions, the filmmaker fell back on a cheap emotional plea. It remains a truly reprehensible work.
The same, however, cannot be said of Sicko, which, until its climactic Guantanamo Bay stunt, is a solidly reasoned lament on the United States’ health care system. It also fell nearly $100 million short of Fahrenheit 9/11‘s domestic take, so screw that rationality crap; let’s lay into Bush for another two hours!
I’d like to think that Moore is taking this sequel on as penance for his prior obfuscation, but his self-promotional shenanigans in support of his 2004 blockbuster (like his faux outrage against Disney when he knew ahead of time that the company had no intention of letting Miramax distribute the film) give me pause. Moore was once a valuable satirist (TV Nation being his high point), but he sacrificed his sense of humor when he turned activist. There’s every reason to believe this untitled effort will be nothing more than a pissed off rehash.
Interestingly, Moore opted against re-teaming with the Weinsteins for the untitled follow-up; for undisclosed reasons, he’s gone with the duo of Paramount Vantage and Overture Films**. As stated in the Variety story, this will get Moore back together with Chris McGuirk, who was at MGM/UA when the Oscar-winning Bowling for Columbine was released. That one had problems, too.
If there’s an upside here, it’s that Moore’s film won’t be completed until next year. Hopefully, he’s learned that the truth can’t be rushed.
*Don’t ask me why “Fahrenheit” is misspelled throughout.
**Not undisclosed anymore. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Moore and TWC couldn’t get on the same page about a “post-election release”. Harvey and Bob Weinstein will receive meaningless Executive Producer credits as a peace offering.