Reel Toronto: A Double Shot of Robin Williams
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.
It’s hard to deny that Robin Williams can be a funny fellow, and he even earned an Oscar for Good Will Hunting, which, of course, was shot here.
And yet, here we have two well-intentioned but deeply flawed Williams flicks, both of which were shot in Toronto. It’s hard to believe you could put together this kind of talent and end up with something so mediocre. But consider these pedigrees:
Death to Smoochy co-stars Edward Norton, Catherine Keener, and Jon Stewart (in a horrible haircut). It’s directed by Danny DeVito and…it goes nowhere.
Man of the Year might be even more baffling. Directed by Barry Levinson, this comedy/satire/thrillery thing co-stars the likes of Jeff Goldblum, Laura Linney, and Christopher Walken. Enough Oscars there to fill a bathtub, but not enough to guarantee quality, apparently.
So, Man of the Year is about this comedian who runs for president, which means we get some heady time to think about democracy as well as some of the longwinded comic riffs that actually worked in Good Morning Vietnam. Not so, here.
When Lewis Black finds out Williams will be included in the presidential debates, he jumps for joy in front of Taylor’s Tea Room, on King Street in Dundas, Ontario.
He then runs across the street, past Freewheel Cycle…
…and tells Williams, sitting in the historic DeLuxe Restaurant with Christopher Walken.
Sadly, the DeLuxe has since gone the way of the dodo, but you can still see some lovely photos here.
The big “Chicago” debate quite clearly uses the U of T front campus, and University College, for its exteriors.
If these steps aren’t familiar to you…
…the railing in this shot might clue you in that the interiors were done at Massey Hall.
After winning the presidency, Williams holds a press conference in the distinctive CBC HQ atrium.
Oscar nominations weren’t enough to keep Laura Linney from the infamous Emerald Isle Motel at the Yonge-Highway 7 intersection in Richmond Hill. That’s where she holes up for the film’s second half. (The real motel sign is well-known for its sassy commentary, often about how much the Leafs suck or how much the Liberals are messing things up.)
Other more remote suburbs, like Uxbridge and Cambridge, also get some face time.
In the “dark comedy”Death to Smoochy, Williams plays a kiddie host who goes nuts when he gets fired and is replaced by a kiddie show hosted by Edward Norton’s quasi-Barney character.
If nothing else, it does a fairly decent job using Toronto locales subtly. Restaurant scenes like this one were shot at the now-defunct Left Bank on Queen West and Filet of Sole on Duncan.
The grand finale (and we use “grand” rather liberally here) is staged during an Ice Capades–type show. It was filmed in hockey haven/future grocery store/Ryerson facility Maple Leaf Gardens. Instead of watching the horrid on-ice product, you may have spent time staring up at these rafters….
…or considered this kind of leap from them towards the ice surface.
They also shot scenes at The Guvernment and Union Station but, people, we can only take so much.