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U.N. Me: Film Review

U.N. Me Poster Art - P 2012

The Bottom Line

Juvenile sub-Michael Moore approach mars a look at the United Nations' many failings.

Directors-screenwriters-producers

Matt Groff, Ami Horowitz

Filmmakers Matt Groff and Ami Horowitz's documentary focuses on the United Nations' failings.

A damning account of institutional dysfunction whose ability to stoke indignation is undercut by its filmmakers' misguided comic antics, Matt Groff and Ami Horowitz's U.N. Me is armed with enough evidence to make its case but is unlikely to attract the viewers it hopes to convince.

Though former investment banker Horowitz (who narrates and is the film's Michael Moore-like protagonist) has contributed to National Review and The Weekly Standard, and the film's segment on ineffectual nuclear inspections could be used to make a case for invading Iran, most of the doc's main arguments will find support across the political spectrum. Rather than entertaining wingnuts by attacking the United Nations' right to exist, for example, or saying it undercuts U.S. sovereignty, the film focuses on how the institution chronically fails to live up to its own principles, and suggests that in its current form it may be structurally incapable of doing so.

From oil-for-food, bribery, and sex-abuse scandals to the refusal to stop a genocide, the film finds everything from individual greed to institutional failures in which wrongheaded idealism leads to bizarre decisions: If, for instance, one believes that universal membership will encourage errant world powers to change their ways, perhaps it makes sense for Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to give the keynote at a U.N. anti-racism conference.

Though the lineup of talking heads includes practically no household names (blink and you'll miss former CIA director James Woolsey, the highest-profile interviewee), the film does offer interesting perspectives, like the experience of Jody Williams, the Nobel Peace Laureate who was recruited to report on Darfur only to see her work suppressed by countries with their own human-rights crimes to hide.

But the legitimacy of all these serious-minded interviewees is thrown into doubt by Horowitz, who weasels through the film like an overprivileged kid making a big-budget audition tape for The Daily Show. From the film's unfortunate title to recurring facetious transitions along the lines of "I needed to get some answers...," he makes the film about himself without explaining why we should accept him as our guide. He pulls stunts, like trying to run through a security checkpoint, and is so snide in interviews one almost feels sorry for spokesmen trying to cover up genocide and illicit nuclear-weapons programs.

The co-director grows more insufferable with each onscreen appearance. Surely, distaste over these antics explains the three-year gap between the film's production and its theatrical booking.

Opens: Friday, June 1 (Visio Entertainment)
Production Company: Disruptive Pictures
Directors-screenwriters-producers: Matt Groff, Ami Horowitz
Executive producers: Thor Halvorssen, Bill Siegel
Directors of photography: Bob Richman, Wolfgang Held
Music: Richard Friedman
Editor: Doug Abel
PG-13, 93 minutes