Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Canadian Bacon.”
The Movie: “Canadian Bacon”
Starring: John Candy, Alan Alda, Rhea Perlman
Director: Michael Moore
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) The U.S. President, low in the opinion polls, gets talked into raising his popularity by trying to start a cold war against Canada.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 14 percent
Froemming: Time to put on your war face, Brown! Because this week, the JOE-DOWN is entering the theater of battle with our nemesis to the north, Canada. You, me, John Candy, Alan Alda, Kevin Pollack, Rip Torn and *checks who the director is, deep-annoyed-sigh* Michael Moore.
That’s right, I picked one of John Candy’s final films before he left this mortal coil for this week’s JOE-DOWN, which also happens to be the only non-documentary film in Moore’s filmography.
Look, I think America has a complicated relationship with this filmmaker. “Roger and Me” is one of the finest documentaries out there, but as Moore’s star rose, so did his ego. And, let’s face it, he’s done some shady editing/storytelling in his docs over the years that I find to be gross.
But before we delve deep into this political satire from the 1990s, when the idea of our president regaling foreign dignitaries with KFC was considered a joke, not the norm, why don’t you give us your first thoughts?
Brown: You sure this wasn’t a documentary?
Look, it’s a passe thing to refer to “Idiocracy” as a documentary whenever we, as a human race, do something moronic.
But this is a movie where the opening song is about trying to make America great again, making a foreign country an enemy for reasons and the President feeding a foreign leader a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
“Canadian Bacon” became a documentary without trying to be one. All because life is a cruel, cruel joke.
I’m gonna go get myself some gourmet Canadian food, like poutine or ketchup on potato chips. Why don’t you get us started, Froemming.
Froemming: The Cold War is over. America is now in a time of peace, and that means a mom-and-pop weapons manufacturing plant has closed in upstate New York due to corporate greed. This has crippled the local economy, leaving the citizens and city to fall into disarray…
Wait, this sounds like “Roger and Me.” (REDACTED) you, Michael Moore for recycling your own material.
Brown: I was hoping “Roger and Me” came out later than it did so I could accuse it of ripping off “Tommy Boy.”
Froemming: The president’s poll numbers have crashed due to this downturn and the fact that Hawkeye from “M*A*S*H” has turned into a lame politician who wears stupid pajamas to bed like he is out of some Dickinson novel.
And, for some reason, the president comes to these weapon plants as they close. Yeah, peace is nice and all, but there is no profit in it. That’s why the 1990s are forever known as the decade of recession….*looks up economy of the 1990s* Shut up, facts!
Brown: Apparently people in Niagara Falls are committing suicide in droves because they lost their livelihood. The gentlemen we focus on, Roy Boy, duct tapes himself and tries to drive off the falls to no avail. Then he tries jumping the railing to no avail. Then there’s Sheriff Bud Boomer (Candy) and Honey (Perlman) egging him on because cops are getting $50 bonuses for recovering dead bodies out of the falls.
Brown: Roy Boy’s failed suicide attempt was the second worst in JOE-DOWN history behind Brian’s flare gun going off in his locker in “The Breakfast Club.”
And before the president arrives at the weapons plant, the former employees are having an auction for the leftover weapons. Because who wouldn’t like to commit a war crime by picking up a bomb they picked up for $25?
… Quit giving the government ideas, Michael Moore!
Froemming: This movie and time have proved that the government took too many of Moore’s crazy ideas to heart.
Brown: I would have been all for someone picking up a mini nuke and using it to eliminate beatniks like Homer Simpson.
Froemming: Now, the weapons plant in question is Hacker Dynamics, and its catchphrase is “Peace Through Fear,” which sounds like a Rage Against The Machine song, or a thesis some stoner college kid wrote after reading “1984” and “A People’s History of the United States.”
Brown: Well, it’s nuclear deterrence, which was the Cold War in a nutshell.
Froemming: Thanks, Capt. Brainiac on the Nerd Patrol.
Anywho, the president arrives to a high school band performing “Hail to the Chief” a little out of tune and no applause. He gives a speech about how great peace time is to a group of people who are out of a job because we are not stockpiling weapons like some backwoods militia who thought Obama was going to go to war with Texas.
Man, reality has become more insane than any article from “The Onion,” hasn’t it.
Well, Roy Boy is holding some weapon he shouldn’t, it goes off and Boomer saves him.
He should be an American hero. But Boomer gets ridiculed in the press for “falling” on the president. Maybe I missed something in that scene. I dunno, I am still in shock by the majestic beard Candy has in this movie.
Brown: Considering the president was quoting Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In the Wind,” I thought it apropos for someone to take a shot at him. Sorry fellow Minnesotans, but we’re not in the 60s anymore and I just don’t get the appeal of Dylan.
Froemming: (REDACTED) Bob Dylan, that (REDACTED) (REDACTED) (REDACTED) (REDACTED) son of a (REDACTED) (REDACTED) (REDACTED) (REDACTED) who should just (REDACTED) (REDACTED) (REDACTED) (REDACTED).
Brown: Now you understand how I feel about Jimmy Buffett.
Froemming: I don’t believe you deleted your infamous open letter to him from college. I want that published. It was poetry at its finest.
Brown: If you know how to restore a bricked Mac laptop, then there’s a chance it survived.
Anyhow, the president’s cabinet, namely General Dick Panzer (Rip Torn) and National Security Advisor Stuart Smiley (Kevin Pollak) are worried about this president lasting only one term. They think the one thing that TRULY unites Americans is conflict. The Cold War is over and America doesn’t have a menace so they want to find a way to reignite another Cold War.
There’s a Trump-Iran corollary there but I’m a lazy American so I’ll let someone else do it.
Froemming: It’s the Wag The Dog thing, creating a war to divert attention from other problems and unite under the president.
I am not saying Trump is doing that, because that would mean he would have the brain power to come up with such a cockamamie scheme, and that dummy can barely keep his dentures in when he spouts word salads.
Anywho, the president wants to meet with the US’s oldest, most trusted enemy: Russia. They fly the new president to the White House and basically beg him to spark up the old tensions. But, Russia is dirt poor, just discovering indoor plumbing and MTV, so they want no part of this nonsense. Also, the president feeds them a bucket of KFC, which again, was thought to be so wildly out of place for a world leader to do only two-and-a-half decades ago.
Brown: To be fair to both Trump and our president in “Canadian Bacon,” fried chicken is delicious and should be enjoyed by everyone.
So yeah, Russia is focused on rebuilding and eventual election tampering so it’s back to the drawing board for the president’s men.
Thankfully, they get an adversary to fall into their lap courtesy of Sheriff Boomer.
Boomer and his friends go across the border to watch a hockey game. There, they’re complaining about the Canadian national anthem (hot take: better anthem than the “Star Spangled Banner”) among other things.
Froemming: To quote Kurt Vonnegut: “There were one quadrillion nations in the Universe, but the nation Dwayne Hoover and Kilgore Trout belonged to was the only one with a national anthem which was gibberish sprinkled with question marks.”
Brown: But it isn’t until Boomer says that Canadian beer sucks where the game stops and a riot ensues.
This is how I imagine all fights in Canada starting (NSFW):
In all honesty, I imagine all of Canada being like “Letterkenny.”
Froemming: That and “Trailer Park Boys” is how I imagine life is in Canada. And all they listen to is Rush (RIP Neal Peart).
Brown: I’m sick of people telling me to watch “Trailer Park Boys.” It’s just not gonna happen.
Froemming: I don’t remember saying you should, Mr. Jumpstoconclusions.
Anyway, Boomer and his buddies get arrested, but this sparks an idea for Smiley. Why not start a Cold War with Canada?
*rubs temple* Jesus, did the Trump Administration watch this movie and think “that makes sense?”
Brown: Isn’t every day in Canada a cold war?
I’ll show myself out.
Froemming: Smiley reaches out to a man named Gus, who is proud he started the Vietnam War. He starts telling horror stories about our neighbors to the north, such as socialized medicine, free college, basically everything Bernie Sanders has been talking about for the past 40 years and is running his presidential campaign on.
So, Smiley convinces the president that making Canada the next Evil Empire is the way to go.
Brown: My favorite part of the Canadian propaganda the government starts creating is about how Neil Young is ruining American lives. His folksy political commentary will do that. Though to reference “South Park” again, Neil Young is no Bryan Adams.
Because Boomer and his friends are idiots, they are believing all this anti-Canada propaganda.
And this is where it dawns on me: This movie is from the future. A boomer being swayed into prejudice by television? “Canadian Bacon” knew Fox News 20 years before it helped get Trump elected!
I think Michael Moore is either a Doctor or he has a Delorean.
Froemming: Fun fact: Boomer is rabidly anti-Canadian, played by famous Canadian John Candy!
So we see small town, USA with armed people manning the local stores and whatnot, fearful that Canadians will be sneaking into our country to finally try ketchup on their fries instead of mayonnaise. Everyone is paranoid.
And now Smiley thinks the ante needs to be upped, and they should fake an attack on the US like the US did with the Gulf of Tonkin in the 1960s.
Quit making me remember history classes, movie!
So they get Gus and some military folks to pose as Canadian soldiers and sabotage the hydroelectric plant (maybe the citizens should try to get a job there?).
Brown: The military didn’t count on Boomer and his band of well-armed crazies to stop the false flag operation from going on.
First, I HATE that I just used the term “False flag operation” like a InfoWars troglobite.
Second, why would you pick the power plant from a town that has loonies that already got into a fight with Canadians AND have a surplus of weapons due to the weapon plant closure.
After seeing the “Canadians” try to draw first blood, Boomer wants to respond. And how do they do that? By littering in Canada!
Though to be fair, Boomer’s idea isn’t far off from my dad’s insistence that my brother and I pee toward Canada when we went fishing at Lake of the Woods as kids.
Froemming: Your upbringing fascinates me.
Well, their plan goes OK, until they realize they left Honey behind and she is arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which I mean, I like Canada and all, but these guys always looked ridiculous to me.
Brown: Quick question: What was your favorite Canadian dig in this movie?
Froemming: Steven Wright as the overly polite jailer who has a prisoner who was arrested for having too many bad moods. You?
Brown: Jumping ahead, when Honey wakes up at the hospital with a bunch of Get Well cards around her, Honey reads one. “‘Best Wishes, Gordon Lightfoot.’ Eww!”
“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” sucks.
Froemming: I am with you 100 percent on that one.
So Honey is arrested and a mysterious video of her is released yelling about how she is going to kick Boomer’s ass for leaving her behind. Boomer sees this on TV at the local bar, tells his buddies they need to do something to save her, and then orders another round so she has time to calm down.
And then comes probably the two best scenes in the whole movie: Boomer and his buddies barging into Canada’s electric plant, run by an elderly couple, then Steven Wright’s polite jail. I have A LOT of problems with Michael Moore, but he does have a decent sense of humor.
So they go to that plant, and shut down all the electricity in Canada, because Boomer could not believe a whole country’s power comes from one small place near Toronto.
When this movie veers into the ridiculous and away from Moore’s commentary, I enjoy it more.
Brown: This movie is actually hilarious. Candy is hilarious as a xenophobic overzealous American. And the Canadian stereotypes are SO over the top. Like, they’re apologizing when they get knocked down by Omega Force, a special forces group that is going after Boomer and company.
Whenever the president called the Canadian prime minister, I was hoping the PM would answer “Hey buddy” like Terrance and Phillip.
Froemming: My favorite gag is when they have guns pointed at Wright and he pronounces “about” as “aboot” and Roy Boy says “We have ways to make you pronounce things right!” I laughed out loud at that one.
They find out Honey is in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, which Boomer can’t believe because he always thought it was Toronto (don’t feel bad, Boomer. I am bad at knowing capitals as well).
Brown: I mean, it doesn’t matter since Honey does find her way into Toronto.
On their way to Toronto, Boomer and co. get pulled over while driving a stolen car with anti-Canadian graffiti. The cop: Dan Akyroyd. After we watched “Caddyshack II” last summer, I was having some reallllll bad vibes about this cameo. But it turned out OK, because it was a funny joke that Aykroyd pulled them over because the graffiti needed to be English AND French to cater to the French Canadians. Figures they have to cater to those cheese-eatin’ surrender monkeys.
I also enjoyed that while driving to Toronto, Boomer keeps singing “Born In the USA” as a pro-patriotism song. I always snicker when idiots use that song to feel patriotic when it’s a protest song about issues around the Vietnam war.
Froemming: Love that scene, especially since Boomer and the crew only sing the chorus because they have no idea what the lyrics are.
To speed this along, Hacker turns on some doodad weapon he made that will launch missiles from all over the country toward Russia, including out of Grand Forks, ND. If GF has nukes, I have no interest in visiting there. Also, if they do not have nukes, I have no interest in visiting there.
Brown: I don’t know if there are nukes but there a LOT of missile silo sites in North Dakota.
Froemming: That’s the otherside of the state from me. I think. I should probably look into my new home state. Shut up!
Brown: Here you go, Buddy. Good news, though: They’ve since been demolished.
Froemming: Hacker uses this to blackmail the US out of a trillion dollars to have him shut it down. Old, rich white people can get away with anything. Fox News would label him a patriot!
Brown: A pawn for Hacker for years, Smiley has had enough of Hacker’s … well, terrorism, so he confronts Hacker and kills him accidentially. And for, you know, killing a human being, Smiley is apprehended despite the fact he has the codes to shut down the launch.
So, America’s boned because there are only a few minutes left until missiles are set to launch at Russia.
Luckily, America has its hero: A county cop with delusions of grandeur and the gun Tony Montana uses in “Scarface!”
Brown: Reaching the top of the CN Tower in Toronto, Honey hears alerts in the background and reveals the command center (or centre, since we’re in Canada) for the Hacker Hellstorm missile system.
So, like any blue-blooded American, Honey starts shooting. And she shuts down the Hellstorm and saves America in the process!
Having won the day, Boomer and Honey hop in a boat and head back to the beauty of America: A polluted hellscape across the river that looks like Flint, Mich. That gave me a pretty good chuckle.
Then we get the “Animal House” ending, letting us know what happened to everyone. If you want to know, just watch the damn movie.
Anywho, Brown, let’s hop in our truck with Canadian insults spray painted in French to accommodate the French-Canadians down to recommendations!
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: I would yeah. It’s not the best political satire film (that would be “Dr. Strangelove”) but this is a pretty funny film and Candy does a great job.
Brown: Absolutely. This is how political satire should be done. I just hate that it hits so close to home in 2020 because we live in the darkest timeline.