Wednesday, 31 December 2014

CORNER GAS THE MOVIE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Canuck TV show on big screen, eh

Here be a real knee-slapper from CORNER GAS THE MOVIE
Nyuck. Nyuck. Nyuck. Are you be laughing yet?
It be real funny, eh? It be Canadian, eh.
Come on! Laugh, goddamn ye! LAUGH!
Ah, fuck you, gimme a beer, eh.

Corner Gas The Movie (2014)
Dir. David Storey
Scr. Brent Butt,
Andrew Carr, Andrew Wreggitt
Starring: Brent Butt, Gabrielle Miller, Fred Ewanuick, Eric Peterson, Janet Wright, Tara Spencer-Nairn, Lorne Cardinal, Nancy Robertson, Don Lake, Reagan Pasternak, Karen Holness, Cavan Cunningham, Graham Greene

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The Canadian TV series Corner Gas was an undeniable smash. For six seasons, its ratings kicked everything off the charts, including big American programs. Its worldwide sales have also been through the roof. The show could probably have gone on for a few more seasons, but its creator Brent Butt bravely decided to pull the plug on a high note. The final episode drew a staggering three-million-plus Canadian viewers.

The ubiquitous billboards, ads, the content of said promotional materials and the general water cooler babble about the show amongst the Great Unwashed was enough to convey to even a gibbering gibbon that the show was a sitcom about inbreds living in some godforsaken small town in the middle of the Canadian Prairies. Happily, that's all I really knew about the show since I don't watch much television save for TV Ontario, a few select British and American items I'd catch up with on DVD, Judge Judy, Divorce Court and the Maury Povich Show. (I used to also watch the former CBC before it was ruined by an oinker with - ahem - "vision".)

Bottom line: I had not laid a single eyeball upon even one frame of the hit series when I finally watched the recent feature-length big-screen version entitled Corner Gas The Movie. I'm glad, though, because I really only care to assess feature films on their merits (or lack thereof) as feature films. Given the pedigree of the series, plus the fact that I'm a dyed-in-the-wool prairie lad who despises Toronto with a passion and has rued every day I've had to live in the godforsaken Town o' Hogs for 20 of my 50 or so years on this Earth, I was open-mindedly thrilled to see this movie.

Besides, seeing feature length versions of shows one loves, especially those made years or even decades after the original idiot box versions, carries way too much baggage for me and more often than not, I'm supremely disappointed. However, in recent years, I had the good fortune to see some family-oriented movies based on hit television shows aimed at pre-teen and tweener girls and enjoyed them so much, I ended up watching the programs on DVD quite happily with my daughter.

I was primed to love this movie, or at least, like it.

It didn't happen. I felt I was watching television of the worst order - a half-hour episode dragged out for over 90 minutes. Even worse, I did not laugh once. Not even a smile managed to crack my steely visage. At times, the movie was so painfully unfunny, I tried to imagine it within the context of being a Carl Dreyer masterpiece, but written and directed by Jethro Beaudine. THAT made me laugh, but alas, the fantasy did not transfer to the misery of having to watch Corner Gas The Movie.

75% of this movie's $8.5 million
budget came from public funds.
Money well spent! Good Job!

The tired narrative trudges along interminably and involves the denizens of Dog River, a town on the verge of utter bankruptcy. Water and power are in scarce supply and business is so bad that Brent (Brent Butt), the proprietor of the gas station, attempts to inject some life into the town by purchasing the local bar. Lacey (Gabrielle Miller) runs the town diner and has her own ideas on how to turn things around. She enters Dog River into a national contest to find the most quaint city in Canada. The prize is $75K, which, could go a long way to cover the town's debts and then some.

The problem, though, is that Dog River needs a whack of elbow grease to get it closer to "quaint". Lacey enlists Brent's Mom, the crusty Emma (Janet Wright) and a handful of others who appear to comprise the entire population of the town. Local layabout Hank Yarbo (Fred Ewanuick) is full of ideas. They're all stupid, but it doesn't stop him from trying. His stupidest idea is attempting to open a coffee-donut chain franchise which, if it worked, would put Lacey out of business.

The town's sole law enforcement is comprised of the pregnant Karen (Tara Spencer-Nairn) and the dopey, friendly big-galoot Davis (Lorne Cardinal). The town's shifty, boneheaded Mayor Fitzy (Cavan Cunnigham), has not only drained the town dry by investing the coffers in, uh, Detroit, but also dupes David into taking an early retirement to save the town some dough. No matter. Davis decides he's going to become a private investigator (not unlike Jethro Beaudine deciding to be a brain surgeon in The Beverly Hillbillies) whilst Karen goes on a mad spree to issue municipal citations to get her "quotas" up in case she needs to get a new law enforcement gig somewhere else.

Nutty Wanda (Nancy Robertson) appears to have the most moxie and entrepreneurial spirit of the lot when she opens up a booze can and casino in Davis's man-cave. It becomes so popular, it's driving Brent's bar into the poorhouse. The biggest threats of all come from the nearby town of prairie fundamentalists who wish to annex Dog River and a coffee and donut chain that wants to buy up all of Dog River's property cheap and turn the whole shooting match into a massive industrial warehouse. Adding insult to injury, a massive lawsuit rears its ugly head and Brent is about to lose everything.

While all this is going down, Brent's father Oscar (Eric Peterson), a dad-nabbit old curmudgeon is so obsessed with survivalism, he trades in his car for a horse and proves, as both a man and human being (and frankly, as a survivalist) to be about as useless as tits on a bull.

By the way, have I yet mentioned that the evil chain trying to swallow Dog River whole is called "Coff-Nuts"?

Are we laughing yet?

The pain involved in suffering through this convoluted maw of rancid folksiness and whimsy is enough to inspire suicide or, at least, a trip to Holland for a bit of the old euthanasia. The acting is either prime-time-competent or full of egregious mugging and there isn't one single funny, original line of dialogue, pratfall or story beat anywhere to be found in the whole dreary enterprise. About all I can say in favour of the movie, and I suppose this is something, is that I did not need prior exposure to the series to figure out who was who and what was what. This was all plainly obvious.

Frankly, though, if the TV series is anything like this movie, I'm not making any time to watch it on DVD and ultimately, I can only conclude how truly bereft of taste and/or brain our kinder, gentler, simpler Canadians are blessed with to have turned it into such a huge hit. It kind of makes sense, though. Corner Gas was probably a big hit amongst all those who elected our current Chancellor/Prime Minister. It's the only explanation.

As for Corner Gas The Movie, it's not a movie. It certainly doesn't have the scope of a movie and feels little more than going to the movies to watch television. Yup, the movie stinks, alright, but I will say it sure does have some pretty prairie sunsets.

Oh, and speaking of purty prairie sunsets, the thick-heads running the government of Saskatchewan (where much of this movie was shot) flushed a terrific tax credit down the toilet, effectively destroyed the local film industry, tossed out all the economic spin-off benefits of film production in the province and forced locals to move away (kind of like what was in the works for the Dog River denizens). I suppose one could consider the Saskatchewan Legislature to be little more than, uh, Coff-Nuts.

In spite of this lack of vision, the province of Saskatchewan opened their purse strings to the tune of $2 Million smackeroonies to help finance this muddy slough of a movie. As reported by CBC News in Saskatchewan, the inbreds running the province cobbled together a funding agreement that "includes a clause that the producers are expected to include 'positive visual aspects' that promote the province as a tourism destination in the story line of the movie. The agreement suggests 'sunrises/sunsets, unique vistas or locations'". Saskatchewan? A Tourism Destination? For what? To see the RCMP horse brigade parade in Regina?

What a bunch of yokels.

They've gotten exactly what they deserve.


If you're interested in reading about HOW to make a genuinely successful big-screen version of a small-screen success, you can read my review from yesterday by clicking HERE.

Corner Gas The Movie is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from VSC. The transfer highlights the gorgeous picture postcard cinematography of Saskatchewan very nicely and it includes a bevy of extra features like gag reels (about as funny as the movie), a clutch of EPK-like making-of items and a thoroughly useless commentary track which is filled wall-to-wall with folksy shout-outs. Nothing I say here will stop the multitude of inbreds in this country from parting with their dollars to buy it, so they might as well order it right from here so they can support the ongoing maintenance of the website which, like the Prime Minister they voted for, has little but disdain for them.