This Michael Moore directed satire is one I hadn’t seen since it’s initial release following the death of it’s star and Canadian Icon, John Candy. I was long overdue for a revisit and when Number 1 son Ethan got wind of the film, that sealed the deal. I found I recalled a couple bits of humor but not the intended message I think Moore was trying to deliver concerning the mass production of weaponry as a business and war as a profit making venture resulting in strong ratings for an unpopular President.
Does the fact that Moore directed this film make it controversial? Not for me but then I’m not as politically motivated as he is or a member of his harshest critics. I’m a movie fan and viewed this for just the second time as one.
Poking fun at the arms industry, the script begins with the closing of a defense plant. People are out of work just across the Canadian border in the Buffalo area. Mocking the sale of weapons, the factory is having a liquidation sale at which the President, Alan Alda turns up with his cabinet in tow. Mainly the slippery Kevin Pollak and war mongering General, Rip Torn. With people out of work and his approval ratings at an all time low, Alda is talked into starting a war out of necessity.
The Russians have no interest as is seen over dinner talks with a bucket of KFC. With no enemies readily available to turn to, Pollak figures on making enemies out of Canada using the power of the media. People like a redneck border sheriff John Candy and his crew, Rhea Perlman and Bill Nunn eat it up and are out to raise hell across the border.
Behind Pollack is an evil businessman as essayed by the always evil G.D. Spradlin.
It seems as if anytime a movie was being produced that called for a slickster in a suit who was out to screw the blue collar worker, Spradlin’s name was at the top of the casting director’s list. Rip Torn wants nothing better than to nuke those “Canadian Bastards” though Alda isn’t too sure of just how far to take this made for the news propaganda war. Torn is at his scene stealing best once again and if I’m not mistaken, might be a distant brother to Rod Steiger’s turn in a very similar role in Burton’s Mars Attacks released the following year though Steiger has a much larger budget to work with than Torn does here.
Candy and company take it too far and after a littering mission across the river that separates the two countries, his crew of stealth mode loiterers realize they’ve left Rhea behind in enemy territory. Perhaps they should have called upon Chuck Norris at this point to bring back the Missing In Action. Off sets Candy, Nunn and Robert O’Connor to save Perlman from the evil clutches of the Canadian Mounties. Along the trail they’ll meet an ultra polite police officer played by Dan Aykroyd who wants to keep everything bi-lingual. This includes all the slurs that Candy has painted on his transport truck aimed at putting down the land of The Maple Leaf. This is a land of both English and French heritage after all.
Best scene in this movie? For me that’s wayyyyy too easy. At one point Candy, Nunn and O’Connor pull over for a campout and compare their mission to the classic war film The Dirty Dozen. Yes the film I always refer to as my favorite with Jaws being the other. Please don’t force me to pick just one. It’s at this point Nunn realizes **** Spoiler Alert for the Dirty Dozen**** that Jim Brown doesn’t survive. He then goes on to point out that “The black guy always dies.”
I’m not so naïve not to know what Moore is trying to point out in this comedy that takes direct aim at the gun fanatics and weapons factories. While I have no use for a fire arm in my home, I’m not about to get into a war of rights and wrongs over those who do. I do wish that we could all just get along in these ever increasing times of trouble and though Canada is far from perfect, I like that the film lampoons many of the fun things about my homeland, attempting to put an evil twist to it all. I’ve always said that when I “kick the bucket” (Jimmy Durante style I hope) and my loved ones plant me in the ground, just put the line ‘There are better days ahead.” on my stone. I always think of that line when times are a bit tough and urge you to as well if you think it might help.