People treat Canadian movies as a serious subject. The mere mention of Great White Northern film conjures up images of dysfunctional family dramas, stark Arctic vistas or bumbling Mounties.
Writer Kathryn Monk summed it up nicely when she wrote a history of Can Con cinema called Weird Sex and Snowshoes. The title of her excellent book puts into words what many people perceive as the state of our homegrown film industry.
We may do our fair share of serious, introspective movies but between moments of navel gazing we also make movies that make people laugh, as we’ll see in this weekend’s Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day.
Years before the Trailer Park Boys brought their own brand of East Coast, humour to the big screen another troupe of comedians from the right hand side of the country created The Adventure of Faustus Bidgood.
It’s a surreal comedy starring CODCO’s Andy Jones as a provincial department of education clerk who fantasizes about becoming president of People’s Republic of Newfoundland and seceding from Canada.
The film, which was the first movie produced entirely in Newfoundland with home-based cast, crew, and funding, is a little inconsistent in tone — it was shot over a 10 year span as money was raised little by little — but is a riot of sight gags and unconventional humour.
Better known is Les Boys, a 1997 Quebec-made comedy that forms the cornerstone of the most successful Quebec made film series of all time. The story, which echoes Slap Shot with a touch of Mystery, Alaska thrown in, sees a ragtag group of amateur hockey players squaring off against a Mafia boss’s team to win back ownership of their coach’s bar. It’s raunchy formulaic fun that has spawned two successful sequels and a television series.
Our final Canadian comedy found inspiration from an unlikely source. Strange Brew, the Bob and Doug McKenzie (Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis) film about something rotten at the Elsinore Brewery, is loosely based on Hamlet, with the McKenzie Brothers taking the roles of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Also, according to hoser Bob it was “shot in 3B — three beers! — and it looks good, eh?”
For all the great films we’ve made in this country Saturday Night Live czar Lorne Michaels jokes a Canadian would never make a film called It’s a Wonderful Life because “that would be bragging.” He says the Canadian version would be called It’s an All Right Life. Sounds like the next great Canadian comedy to me.
– Richard Crouse’s Movie Show can be seen every Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on the E! Channel; firstname.lastname@example.org.