Reel Toronto: Harrison Bergeron
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Reel Toronto: Harrison Bergeron

Sean Astin and Howie Mandel take on Kurt Vonnegut. Really.

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.

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Lately we’ve been profiling a lot of quality productions—even if they’re not great movies or TV shows, at least they’re well made. But it’s important to remember that our true cinematic heritage is about cheesy, low-fi productions from the 1980s and 1990s, and oh boy, does Harrison Bergeron fit the bill.

Just check out this nutty cast! It’s led by post-Rudy, pre-Lord of the Rings Sean Astin and is almost certainly the only movie that stars Christopher Plummer and Howie Mandel and Andrea Martin and young soon-to-be stars Hayden Christensen and Emmanuelle Chriqui. So much talent! Such a mediocre movie! It’s basically an anti-socialist allegory, set in a dystopian future (albeit one with a David Lynch-esque 1950s vibe) where the talented are intellectually hobbled so no one excels, and everyone is equally unhappy, or some such thing. And it’s based (loosely, Wikipedia notes) on a Kurt Vonnegut short story of all things. My gosh, what a gold mine!

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Did someone say “dystopian”? Then by all means, let’s get some cameras set up amid the horrible, brutalist concrete structures at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus.

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We’ve seen them provide equally inhospitable backdrops for things such as Enemy and Total Recall

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…and a movie like this makes us wonder how people can stomach going there for four years. No offence, Scarborough students, but your school does have a kind of look to it, if you know what we mean.

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Indeed, this lecture hall looks like the same one in which Jake Gyllenhaal teaches in Enemy

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…but he didn’t get to FaceTime with Euguene Levy!

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Speaking of schools, young master Harrison goes to high school here…

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…at Danforth Tech.

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Hey, sitting behind him is Sloan, telling herself that one day this will lead to a decent role on HBO!

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Hey, there on the right, it’s Anakin Skywalker padding his résumé!

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And now it’s early-SNL mainstay Buck Henry (who, among other things, wrote the screenplays for The Graduate and To Die For)! Can this possibly be topped?

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OMG, and it’s former Stratford director Richard Monette? Who put this thing together? Can we get them inducted into the Order of Canada? Can Sam Gamgee be an honorary member?

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But people don’t just go to school and live in horrible concrete bunkers in the future—they also eat!

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Despite that fake exterior, this familiar interior…

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…is actually the Lakeview!

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Harrison lives out in the burbs, and we confess that we are not quite sure where this house is.

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Do you recognize this cul-de-sac?

Lest you think, based on our snarky comments and these terrible screencaps, that this is a bad movie, know this: it received four Gemini nominations. (Although it looks as if Due South won everything that year. Hmph!)

So maybe we’re not giving it a fair shake. After all, Vonnegut himself liked it for some reason. He seemed to think it looked “expensive” and “majestic.” Maybe you will too?