Movie Review: What could be funnier than “Being Canadian”?

canuck2So, how much do we South of the Border types really know about our frozen sisters and brothers in the Great White North?

Well, they’re white. And polite. And seriously insecure about the Land of Opportunity that exists just below the 49th parallel.

Oh, and they do LOVE their donuts.

Canadian born TV writer/producer Robert Cohen (‘The Big Bang Theory”, “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment”) had access to many of the legions of Canadians Among Us (the name of a “This American Life” episode that might have inspired this) and thought it would be funny to examine, in documentary-essay form, what “Being Canadian” means.

He frets, he says, about “the world’s indifference to my homeland.” So Cohen got a grant and traveled across Canada, seeing Canadian sites and reciting snippets of Canadian history. He talked to Americans (drunk, in Vegas) about what they know about Canada. And to Canadians about what being Canadian means to them.

“We’re more than just igloos and beer,” he says. And donuts.

canuckAnd he peppered his picture, “Being Canadian,” with every famous Canadian working in Hollywood or American TV. There’s Shatner and Smulders and Rogen and Rush, Eugene Levy and Martin Short, Morley Safer and Catherine O’Hara, Paul Schaefer and Will Arnett, Alan Thicke and Malcolm Gladwell.

Some take a shot at the big questions — “Why are Canadians so nice?”

Mostly, though, they just react to the popular stereotypes. This thing famous Canadians do when strangers come up and say, “Hey, I’m Canadian too!” Nathan Fillion gets the film’s biggest laugh when he simply demonstrates reaching out and warmly shaking the hand of his fellow Canuck.

They’re always “apologizing,” Alanis Morisette complains.

And they all carry around “the list,” that mental scorecard of just who is Canadian, so they can spring it on people who aren’t from Canada. Barenaked Ladies, Rush, BTO, Captain Kirk, and so on.

Cohen comes close to getting at why Canadians are so funny (at least in the arts). It’s their long winters. We need Mike Myers, Dan Aykroyd and many others to explain that to us.

But it’s not a terribly funny or enlightening documentary for anybody over 30, say, or anybody who’s ever wandered through Winnipeg or Toronto and noticed donut shops on every corner.

Full disclosure here — I have lived in Alaska and North Dakota, visited Canada, had Canadian TV (pre-cable) beamed my way and more than my share of “Canuck jokes” in the process. Most of them funnier than what Martin Short, Mike Myers et al sputter here.

But Cohen at least sets up Shatner for a big laugh. How might Captain Kirk clear the bridge on the Starship Enterprise?

“Get OOT” he shouts, letting his back-bacon fly.

2half-star6

MPAA Rating: unrated, some profanity

Cast: Cobie Smulders, Seth Rogen, Michael J. Fox, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Eugene Levy, Will Arnett, Dan Aykroyd, Rush.
Credits: Written and directed by Robert Cohen. A Candy Factory release.

Running time: 1:30

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