‘Osama’ director’s hunt fails to find bin Laden, humility

Al Alexander

Where is Osama bin Laden? It’s the question on the lips of everyone but the Bush family, whose deep ties to the terrorist leader’s brothers make their indifference understandable, albeit inexcusable.

Which leads to an even bigger question: If Dubya isn’t going to take advantage of the world’s most technically advanced military to hunt down the Charles Manson of the Muslim world, who is?

How about Morgan Spurlock? OK, he’s no Rambo, but the director of the Oscar-nominated “Super Size Me” and host of FX’s “30 Days” is just hammy enough to take on the challenge in his aptly titled “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?”

His motivation, beyond the lucrative box office his oft-entertaining documentary stands to make, is the eminent birth of his first child. Rightfully, he’s concerned about the increasingly dangerous world the kid will inherit.

So to make the tyke safe, Spurlock, in the old Hollywood tradition, decides to strap on the Kevlar and go do it himself. Well, he and his legion of assistants scattered across a half-dozen Muslim nations.

It’s not giving much away to say his efforts come up short – and I’m not talking about his hunt for bin Laden.

I’ll admit that I laughed more than a few hearty chuckles, but the flick is ultimately so shallow and remedial in scope it makes Spurlock’s grandstanding in “Super Size Me” look profound.

If it sounds like I’m dissing the guy, I’m not. The dude is flat out funny, just like his contemporary Michael Moore. But also like Moore, he makes himself so much a part of the narrative you’re pondering what’s more important: the message or the messenger.

It’s the messenger of course, and that, compounded by Spurlock’s wont to take on subjects with easy-to-draw conclusions (fast food is fattening and unhealthy: Muslims are not all evil), make him little more than a pandering narcissist – just like Moore.

At least Moore mixes his interviews with a semblance of context. Spurlock just offers up people – in this case mostly poverty-ridden Muslims from Egypt, Morocco, Gaza, Afghanistan and Pakistan – who support his pre-drawn conclusions.

Except for a band of angry Orthodox Jews who forcibly evict him from their Tel Aviv neighborhood, Spurlock offers up more than a dozen people saying basically the same thing: “We love Americans, but hate America.” Oh, yeah, and they want safe streets, good schools and a fair wage. “Just like us.”

If this is news to anyone, it would be as big a shock as Spurlock filming a movie in which he was not the center of the universe.

That self-involvement works to his advantage early on as he amusingly trains under the tutelage of Jim Wagner in self-defense techniques, including such elementary tacks as searching for car bombs and taking cover from grenade blasts.

Once he arrives in Egypt, though, and begins his journey down the Yellow Brick Road to Islamic enlightenment, the movie takes on a condescending, self-important tone. Combine that with the film’s repetitiveness, and it quickly becomes a bit of a slog.

Still, there are some pretty funny moments, a sort of Muslims-say-the-darndest-things compilation that lends a warmth and an all-too-short hint of genuineness that makes the whole enterprise seem worthwhile.

Give Spurlock credit; he did find fascinating interview subjects, most of whom remain optimistic and jovial despite living in poverty under the rule of politically corrupt leaders, many of whom are in cahoots with the Bush administration. No wonder they hate us.

The words are often moving, as well as honest; something that can’t be said for the rest of the picture, which is about Spurlock’s favorite subject: Morgan Spurlock. He even drags his camera into the birthing tub to give us a glimpse of his newborn offspring.

Let’s just hope the kid doesn’t inherit his pop’s massive ego.

The Patriot Ledger