Morgan Spurlock -- whose mix of affable good humor, wise guy populism, shameless showmanship and participatory journalism made Super Size Me a breakout hit at Sundance in 2004 -- is back in Park City with his follow-up feature documentary, Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden? And those elements are all still very much in effect in Spurlock's sophomore feature film, even if they may occasionally feel in need of slight fine-tuning. Inspired by the impending birth of his first child, Spurlock hits upon one thing he can do to make the world a safer place for his yet-to-be-born offspring; find and capture Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind September 11th and the leader of Al Qaeda. As Spurlock notes in his introduction, "If I've learned anything from big budget action films, it's that complicated world problems are best solved by one lonely guy. ...." And while Spurlock may not actually answer the question of where, he actually tackles, with humor, probing wit and a certain grace, the much more important question of why.

And while Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden? offers more than a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, at least there is a little medicine. After security training and an extensive battery of shots, Spurlock begins touring the globe to find out who Osama is and where he came from. A quote from Dick Cheney gives a party-line take on the roots of terrorist hatred for America: "They hate us, they hate our country, they hate the liberties for which we stand." But, as comedian David Cross notes in one of his charged stand-up bits, if the terrorists really hated freedom, then the Netherlands would be dust long before America got attacked. ...

So why do they hate us? Spurlock goes out into, as the op-ed pieces call it, 'the Arab street,' in Jordan and Morocco and Palestine and Egypt and Saudi Arabia and elsewhere to not only ask about Osama's whereabouts but also ask the people there how they feel about 9-11 and America. And with a mix of interviews and escapades and animations, Spurlock lays out a simple thesis: That America's image has been hurt and sullied for years by its own conduct, primarily by propping up authoritarian regimes that deny their citizens economic and political freedoms, with those angry, disenfranchised poor embracing Islamic fundimentalism as the only thing that will listen and violence as the only way they can be heard. (Oh, and invading Iraq. And supporting Israel's efforts in the contested territories. And ...) Al Franken notes that when Liberals say they love America, it's like the love in a long marriage -- "I love you, but I'm mad you didn't take out the trash ... " or "I love you, but I can't believe you gave billions of dollars in arms and aid to Iraq during the '80s." It's still love, but it's tough love -- which includes asking hard questions and raising ugly facts. Spurlock says, flat-out, that in our desire to support two precious resources -- anti-communism during the Cold War and oil right now -- we have helped create the poverty, hopelessness and anger that is the meat and drink of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism.