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It was something of an underground phenomenon on cable television that quickly became interwoven into the country's culture, its movie spin-off is already among the biggest comedies of all time, and the DVD version refuses to budge from Blockbuster's list of the top 10 best sellers.
No, the film is not Borat, the country is not the United States (let alone Kazakhstan), and that particular Blockbuster list tracked sales in what the McKenzie brothers (ask your parents) call the "Great White North," or what Naomi Klein (ask a Nation reader) calls "Canada."
The cinematic masterpiece in question is Trailer Park Boys: The Movie, which follows the bumbling/thieving/intoxicated exploits of three lads who grew up together in the fictional Sunnyvale Trailer Park near Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.
Americans—and by that I mean realAmericans, not North Americans or some inclusive shit like that—are unlikely to have heard of Trailer Park Boys, save for the occasional stoner who stumbled upon late-night reruns on BBC America. Those who stuck with the no-budget show long enough to get hooked like it's gutter meth know TPB is the funniest thing to come out of Canada since Ken Finkleman's The Newsroom and one of the best TV comedies ever produced on the North American continent—and this time I am being inclusive.
It's small wonder the Trailer Park Boys TV series—which begins its seventh season on Canada's Showcase cable network in April—and movie are genuine sensations in their home country, spinning off books, Genie Awards (Canada's Oscars) nominations and concert tours, including in-demand appearances at college campuses by supporting actors John Dunsworth and Patrick Roach, who play alcoholic trailer-park supervisor Jim Lahey and his shirtless, pot-bellied lover Randy, respectively. The movie also may have inspired the hacked-off removal and theft of parking meters recently in Ottawa.
Like The Newsroom, The Office and anything on the tube these days that is not American Idol or its assorted evil spawn, TV's Trailer Park Boys is a mockumentary. We never see the actual documentarians, and their subjects only acknowledge a handheld camera's presence when they face it for one of those explanatory close-ups that became cliché after the first Real World. (Perhaps the Trailer Park Boys pilot episode set up the production crew's role; I don't remember, having been stoned at the time.)
Trailer Park Boys: The Movie picks up as if it were an especially long version (97 minutes) of the usual half-hour program. There is no extraordinary framing of shots, no explanatory introductions of the characters or crew, no let's-demolish-the-proven-format-to-demonstrate-how-clever-we-can-be.
Everyone onscreen reminds you of someone you've interacted with before, especially if you've spent any time in Fontana. Julian, Ricky and Bubbles—yes, Bubbles—return to Sunnyvale after an 18-month prison stint for trying to steal an ATM machine. Julian (John Paul Tremblay), who'd be the brains of the outfit if only he had any, recognized behind bars he needed profound change in his life. No, Julian is not going to finally dump the contents of that three-quarters-full tumbler of rum and Coke he constantly carries (while in the prison yard, driving, facing a judge, etc.). No, thanks to a fellow inmate's influence, Julian is swearing off "The Big Dirty"—or big score—in favor of stealing change, which police won't trace. But when extraction from parking meters proves too problematic, Julian points his crew to a Big Dirty involving a ton of coins.
Ricky (Robb Wells, who also cowrote the script with director and TV-series creator Mike Clattenburg), meanwhile, is trying to reconnect with his estranged girlfriend, Lucy (Lucy Decoutere), whose new strip-club-owner boyfriend just stuffed $6,000 worth of fake breasts into her chest cavity. Ricky also reaches out to his school-age daughter Trinity (Lydia Lawson-Baird), who steals and re-sells backyard barbecues for spending money when her dad isn't bumming cigarettes off her.
Coke-bottle-bespectacled Bubbles (Mike Smith), besides his usual role as his trio's stammering voice of simpleton conscience, must contend with an unjustified eviction from his open-roofed shed/home and the literal herding of cats. Other beloved characters from the TV version are also in the movie, including clueless Ricky worshipers Cory (Cory Bowles) and Trevor (Michael Jackson), white rapper J-Roc (Jonathan Torrens), Ricky's sometimes-wheelchair-bound dad Ray (Barrie Dunn, who helped bring the show to TV and produced the movie with Ivan Reitman), and, of course, Mr. Lahey and Randy.
Thankfully, Trailer Park Boys: The Movie is not filled with sappy pathos, slapped-on happily ever afters or winking cameos by Hollywood celebrities, although Tragically Hip front man Gordon Downie and Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson (whose "The Spirit of Radio" guitar intro opens the movie before it fades into the TPB tinkling-piano TV theme song) do appear briefly as cops.
Despite the dope, the swearing, the stupidity, the law-breaking and the Porkys-esque nudity, this flick's got heart. And the DVD version also has deleted scenes, director commentary, a making-of featurette, "lost interviews" with the Boys in character, and a music video by the Big Dirty Band, which includes Can-rockers from Rush, Tea Party, Three Days Grace, Thornley and Die Mannequin.
Clattenburg has resisted Hollywood's attempts to bring his show south after adaptations intended to make it more palatable to Yanks. Good for him. One need only recall the Americanization of Jennifer Saunders' Absolutely Fabulous to know how tragic that would be. We can relate to the unfiltered Trailer Park Boys show and movie—which got picked up for U.S. distribution after a successful screening at South By Southwest—just fine. And you don't even have to be stoned, although it couldn't hurt.
AT PRESS TIME, SEVEN COPIES OF TRAILER PARK BOYS: THE MOVIE WERE AVAILABLE ON DVD FROM AMAZON.COM.
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