Today Thu Fri
It is forcast to be Partly Cloudy at 11:00 PM EDT on April 23, 2014
Partly Cloudy
6°/0°
It is forcast to be Partly Cloudy at 11:00 PM EDT on April 24, 2014
Partly Cloudy
8°/3°
It is forcast to be Chance of Rain at 11:00 PM EDT on April 25, 2014
Chance of Rain
11°/5°

4 Comments

culture

Reel Toronto: Canadian Bacon

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.
2011_03_15bacon.JPG
There are people who believe Michael Moore is a brilliant satirist, shining a light on the hypocrisies of America, while others think he’s a moronic blowhard who simplifies complex arguments and takes a series of cheap shots. But on this one thing all people agree: his sole feature film, Canadian Bacon, sucks. It won’t shock you that Siskel and Ebert gave it two thumbs down.


2011_03_15niagarafalls.JPG
If you don’t know the plot (and why would you?), in Canadian Bacon a fictional U.S. president decides to invade Canada to distract American citizens from something or other. This means the Toronto and Niagara Falls areas get to play themselves, most of the time.
2011_03_15fallsoverhead.JPG
Indeed, the film opens with some rather lovely shots of the falls.
2011_03_15hydro.JPG
Later on, there’s a break-in at this hydro plant, which is played by the Robert Moses plant on the American side of the river. (Though this shot was likely taken from the Canadian side.)
2011_03_15_12milecreek.JPG
This scene, where wacky Americans try to cross the “Niagara River,” was actually shot in the calmer waters of Twelve Mile Creek in St. Catharines.
2011_03_15dofasco.JPG
Slightly closer to home is this scene featuring a defence plant, shot at Hamilton’s Dofasco.

One could argue Moore was trying to skewer Americans by employing Canadian stereotypes, but he doesn’t cut too deeply. Here, for example, is a scene in which Canadians get upset because an American makes fun of their beer. Get it? ‘Cause our beer kicks their beer’s collective ass. Then there’s a hockey fight, since that’s the other thing we do.
2011_03_15hockey1.JPG
The whole melee takes place during a hockey game shot at the Niagara Falls Memorial Arena. As you can see from their jerseys, yes, the team is called the Ontario Beavers.
2011_03_15parkwood-ext.JPG
They cheaped out on the White House, using some careful framing to disguise the fact they’re actually at Billy Madison‘s house, Parkwood Estate, both outside…
2011_03_15parkwood-int.JPG
…and in.

Eventually, of course, we actually get to Toronto. The arrival takes place in this geographically incongruous scene when John Candy and his crew get their first glimpse of the skyline from the Leslie Street Spit.
2011_03_15princesgate.JPG
Then we finally get some Toronto-as-Toronto shots, including the Princes’ Gate…
2011_03_15medsci.JPG
…and Queen’s Park Circle’s western side…
2011_03_15queenspark.JPG
…panning over to the legislative building.
2011_03_15street.JPG
Then they drive (the wrong way) down Adelaide Street
2011_03_15skategirl.JPG
…stopping to talk to this girl (carrying ice skates, natch) at Simcoe and Pearl streets, just south of the Enwave Building.
2011_03_15cntower.JPG
Part of the gag (such as it is) is that Rhea Pearlman’s character thinks there’s some big Canadian defence computer hidden inside the CN Tower, so we get lots of shots of the tower from top….
2011_03_15cnbase.JPG
…to bottom.
2011_03_15cntower-potato.JPG
Moore also steals (ahem, pays homage to) gags from a bunch of other films, such as this CN Tower–riffic take on Close Encounters of the Third Kind
2011_03_15animalhouse.JPG
…this “where are they now?” montage, straight out of Animal House

…and Dan Aykroyd in an amusing cameo as an OPP officer, which is really just a riff on a gag that was far funnier in The Life of Brian.

Canadian Bacon grossed an astoundingly low $178,000 on an eleven-million-dollar budget, but that’s not to say it’s a total loss. You can’t make so many jokes without something being funny. And that something is Steven Wright’s scene as a Mountie. There are a few chuckles in this clip, but the Wright bit starts at about 5’30″.
The credits are a gold mine of random trivia, from the fact that the Niagara Falls footage was shot by another company, to the amazingly long list of stock footage companies that contributed to the movie. The “thanks” section mentions Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, and the guys in R.E.M. (the final credits segue from their “Only in America” into Anne Murray doing “Snowbird.”) But the best is the absolute final line: “To Johnny LaRue—thanks to you, we got our crane shot.”

This was the great John Candy’s final full film. He’d pass away in the middle of shooting Wagons East!, which is arguably an even bigger cinematic tragedy. It seems only right to cleanse the palate and end off with a fast reminder of just how awesome he was.

Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632836493 Katherine Carleton

    It IS a stinker of a movie; but I think you under-estimate the “Canadian beer” sequence. It's been a while since I saw it, and I may be misremembering the sequence. But I recall admiring the way Moore and co. kept upping the ante: first, they insulted our Prime Minister (and no-one cared); then they insulted our national anthem (and no-one cared); then they smacked us down for cheating (and no-one cared); and – finally – they insulted our beer…and the place erupted!

  • rich1299

    Granted it was no cinematic masterpiece but I think you're being too hard on the movie, I found it entertaining and it made me laugh, I couldn't care less which scenes were “ripped off” from what other movies overall it was one of the only movies I can think of that played with American stereotypes of Canadians and Canadian stereotypes of Americans. You are right though in that the Steven Wright's scenes were among the funniest in the movie. Overall it entertained me and made me laugh, that's far more than many other movies have done for me, even ones you've rated much more favourably in the past.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=703092024 David Fleischer

    I did concede there are some laughs in this film, particularly for Torontonians.

    Given that the average Rotten Tomatoes rating of a Toronto-shot film is probably around 4.5, perhaps I should endeavour further to differentiate between horrible, terrible, so-bad-it's-good and so-bad-it's-abominable movies.

    Canadian Bacon is not a total loss but there's a reason Michael Moore has stuck to documentaries ever since. I hesitate to outright recommend it (and accept no responsibility for any side effects) but if you read this column you're likely to derive at least a modicum of enjoyment from it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=703092024 David Fleischer

    I did concede there are some laughs in this film, particularly for Torontonians.

    Given that the average Rotten Tomatoes rating of a Toronto-shot film is probably around 4.5, perhaps I should endeavour further to differentiate between horrible, terrible, so-bad-it's-good and so-bad-it's-abominable movies.

    Canadian Bacon is not a total loss but there's a reason Michael Moore has stuck to documentaries ever since. I hesitate to outright recommend it (and accept no responsibility for any side effects) but if you read this column you're likely to derive at least a modicum of enjoyment from it.