Capitalism: A Love Story | Documentary | rated R (A,L) | starring Michael Moore, Wallace Shawn | written, produced & directed by Michael Moore | 2:07 mins

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore dissects America’s capitalist economic system from a society that worked for the common good in the 50s to the deregulation of the banking industry in the 80s to the banking crisis and mortgage collapse of the 00s that forced people out of their homes and laid off American workers. Moore’s contention being that capitalism promotes greed, crowds out the middle class and is straight-up evil.

If you’ll remember Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine, in it Moore blames everything and the kitchen sink for school violence. Ever since then he’s been spinning those ideas off into their own movies. First the War on Terror and George W. Bush got the feature treatment in Fahrenheit 9/11. Now, following Sicko – arguably Moore’s funniest and most effective movie yet – Moore goes after America’s economic system itself. It’s been said that authors have only one story to tell and that is certainly true of Michael Moore. Capitalism: A Love Story may just be his weakest movie yet. A topic he can’t quite get his arms around set to his usual formula of sob stories, 50s stock footage, interviews with non-experts and childhood anecdotes of growing up in Flint Michigan.

There will always be a crowd that loves Michael Moore movies only for his political point of view, which is all well and good. But if you’ve seen Jesus Camp, Deliver Us from Evil, The Cove, the absolutely hysterical The King of Kong or any number of other recent documentaries you know there are filmmakers out there better at stitching together footage then Moore. But to the issue and hand: capitalism. Moore approaches it as anyone trying to build an iron-clad case to educate the masses with would: Capitalism is non-linear. Starting at the end, back-tracking and then jumping all over the place, Moore lets his desire to make an impressive narrative movie crowd out his desire to make a clear, cohesive argument. As if explaining derivatives, the history of the bank bailout and 50 years of capitalist propaganda wasn’t already enough to shove in the viewer’s lap.

The film, as a film, is a mess. An overzealous cramming together of everything Moore can possibly think of. Like Fahrenheit 9/11 and unlike Sicko, Capitalism lacks focus. Almost swallowed up by the epic scale of it’s own topic. Originally designed to be Fahrenheit 9/11 1/2, then modified to make the case against capitalism and in favor of socialism and then re-focused on the mortgage, banking crisis and financial collapse of GE right up to the year before the movie was released. Then re-written again with the election of President Barack Obama, who Moore depicts as a savior of the people. It’s a mess just as a scripted movie would feel like a mess if it started one way and the ending was re-written to introduce and entirely new story in the third act. Striking opportunistically while the iron is hot.

Running at Moore’s usual over-2-hour length, the movie has all but run out of gas by the time it gets to the Wall Street section. It’s here where Moore lights the dynamite and stages one of his patented stunts: rolling crime scene tape in front of the stock exchange or trying to run past the guards to make a citizens arrest of the executives of CitiGroup. It’s the only time in the movie where Moore approaches his mad-capped irreverant self and it is funny.

Part of his usual bag of tricks, Moore lines up sob stories and grieving parents that are impossible to argue against. He talks about a judge who was bought off by a for-profit juvenile detention center to sentence children to the center for minor infractions for indefinite periods of time. An interesting and terrible story in it’s own right, but like everything here it lacks context. 1 judge out of how many? Thousands? Making the case that the greedy actions of a few (proportionally) are the result of the entire economic system that millions are under is a giant, prickly pill to swallow. Moore’s mixing of unrelated things, trying to explain correlations with causalities, extends to his final thesis when he argues that the solution to capitalism is democracy. An economic system and a political system? I assume somebody told him not to straight-up say the solution to capitalism was communism.

Maybe the biggest problem with Capitalism is that it doesn’t show us anything new, it doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know or assume. Moore’s on the money about greedy CEO’s, but we all know that. It isn’t anything we haven’t already heard on the news or in our own offices. The movie unearths no insight into it, which would have been greatly appreciated given how hyper-topical and fresh in the minds the events in it are to the public. His use of 50s as the good old days smacks of revisionist nostalgia. It’s also worth noting that Moore interviews character actor Wallace Shawn (Toy Story), but not one single economist. Not one. In a movie about the economy.

Michael Moore movies are usually good springboards to foster debate and discussion, usually rallying cries for his argument. But Capitalism: A Love Story is a weak case. Muddled, careless, over long, straining unfunny when it tries to be (had enough of the 50s/60s stock footage yet? He’s got YouTube videos for you now) and lazily regurgitating all of Moore’s usual formula. We’ve seen this movie before from him. Shaping the movie to take down greedy CEOs and root for the impoverished victims of the mortgage crisis would be one thing Moore could have worked with, but he throws a needle into a volcano trying to tie it to the entire economic system. It all seems to big for even his grasp. His desire to make something completely epic and all encompassing lets the movie completely get away from him.