|Larded with Laughs||1995 Copyright Maclean's Magazine|
|Brian D. Johnson||September 25, 1995|
|With Canadian Bacon, American writer-director Michael Moore
has created an odd milestone.
It is a U.S. comedy filled with jokes about Canadians. It's the last
complete role that John Candy filmed
before his death last year, on the set of Wagons East. And it
is the strangest brew of political satire and farce since Dr. Strangelove.
(1963) Alan Alda plays an American president itching for a war to boost
his ratings. Goaded by a hawkish general, (Rip Torn), he gets the bright
idea of provoking a skirmish with Canada.
As the White house stirs up anti-Canuck sentiment, Bud (Candy), an
overzealous sheriff in Niagara Falls, N.Y., launches a vigilante raid
with his deputy (Rhea Perlman).
Their target: Toronto's CN Tower, which they see as the heart of an
Canadian Bacon is corny, sophomoric fare. The plot which culminates in a nuclear faceoff, is sketchy at best. But it offers a lot of laughs, especially for a Canadian audience. and the movie's shabby, prankster style is part of its charm-- which could also be said of its 41-year old director. "I tried to do something I'd never seen before," says Moore, "which is mixing politics with mainstream comedy. I didn't want to make an art-house film that would preach to the converted."
THe director, who recently won an Emmy for his series TV Nation, was promoting his new film last week at the Toronto International Film Festival, which put him on the map by showing Roger & Me (1989), his irreverant documentary about auto layoffs in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. The idea for Canadian Bacon came out of the Gulf War, he explains. "After Vietnam, I couldn't believe it was that easy to convince the American public to go to war against an enemy they knew nothing about. I thought, 'What would be the most absurd example of that? Could you name any country? Bimini? Bermuda? Canada?'"
Candy's involvement helped him raise the movie's $14-million budget. "But the financiers wanted from John the Uncle Buck style of comedy," he recalls, "and we wanted to do something more edgy. We won about 95 percent of our battles. john did not want the film to be a continuation of the last five films he had done, where Hollywood had stereotyped him as that big, lovable goof."
By parodying U.S. ignorance of Canada, however, Moore's film may fly over the heads of American moviegoers. "I'm worried about that," he concedes. "Satire does not do well in the United States." But whatever the movie's fate, Moore has reversed one stubborn stereotype of Americans filming in Canada. After shooting in Toronto, he had to pick up an extra shot, and could not afford to go back. So he used New York City, making it look like Toronto. "It's probab;y the first time that's happened," he laughs. For that alone, Moore could qualify as an honorary Canadian.
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