Canadian Bacon (1995) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Robbins Recipe: South Park meets Wag the Dog.

This is a pretty good little cult comedy, actually made in 1993, which provided much inspiration for the two later films referenced above.

Alan Alda plays a President of the USA who is struggling to keep his approval ratings afloat in a sea of economic troubles after perestroika. With the world engaged in neither hot nor cold war, arms manufacturers and related industries are laying off people right and left. With the economy tumbling, the President needs a hook to get re-elected. 

It seems that there is one chance - restart the cold war, put people back to work, and get people rallying behind the president against a known enemy. The President invites the Russian Prime Minister to a summit dinner to discuss it, but Russia has too many internal problems to afford war machinery. In fact, The Russians ask for a doggie bag to take the leftovers back with them - and it's KFC "winging" back to Moscow.

After considering the general absence of real, live enemies in the world, the president's advisors decide that they can create the scariest possible scenario by drumming up a cold war with Canada. Look at the facts - 

  • they can easily spy in America, because they look the same as Americans ("Trebek. Shatner. They walk among us.")
  • they are right on the border, not far overseas
  • they hold a big edge over the USA in the all-important Zamboni technology
  • they have a marijuana leaf on their flag

Unfortunately, John Candy and Rhea Perlman, as cops in Niagara Falls, New York, get a bit carried away with the non-existent Canadian threat, and decide to attack immediately with the one thing the Canucks fear most - litter. You know how clean their cities are. So Candy carries a few bags of garbage across to Ontario, sprinkles it around, one thing leads to another, and Perlman is taken prisoner in Canada, which doesn't realize they are at war.

But the US president realizes it, and declares her a prisoner of war. "Surrender her pronto, or we'll level Toronto". Candy and his associates aren't waiting for diplomatic channels, and they slip back over the border. First they attack the hydroelectric station which provides power to the entire country. It has an unlocked door, and is being watched over at night by a little old couple in comfy chairs. 


After disabling Canada's power grid, Candy and his men steal a truck, fill it with hateful anti-Canadian graffiti, and drive it toward the capital of Canada, Toronto. A mountie tried to fool them into thinking the capital was some place named Ottawa, but they outsmarted him with their vicious interrogation. ("We have ways of making you pronounce the letter "o".) On the way to Toronto, a traffic cop pulls them over, and they're terrified. But after seeing Candy's license, the cop says "Americans, eh? Welcome to Ontario, sportsman's paradise". They think they're in big trouble because of the stolen truck and the hate graffiti, but the cop only gives them a ticket because all the graffiti is in English, in clear violation of Canada's bilingual laws. So they write some equally hateful French graffiti, and are then free to continue their adventures. 

The film was written and directed by Michael Moore, the guy who is the nemesis of America's military-industrial complex because of his embarrassing in-your-face documentaries ("Roger and Me", e.g.).  

Of course, he was satirizing America's Gulf War adventure mentality, which not only got President Bush's approval rating up into the 90's, but which ultimately got Bill Clinton in office. (Bush's popularity was so strong that the significant Democrats were scared to enter the race, for fear they would be crushed, and end their careers ala Dukakis. Clinton, as the obscure, $35,000 a year governor of Arkansas, had nothing to lose. Bush's polls turned south, Clinton proved to be a skillful pol, and Clinton snuck into the back door of the White House.)

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • no meaningful features

It really could have been a great movie with a bit more work and an experienced director. Some of it is hilarious,  the premise is both accurate and funny, and it features some good performances from Rip Torn, Alan Alda, and Candy. Unfortunately, the basic plot with Candy is spoiled by a crazy sub-plot with some insane arms manufacturers, unscrupulous Presidential advisors who are beholden to the arms industry, and more unfunny crap about a real plot to blackmail the world by launching nuclear missiles from a control station atop the CN tower, all of which should have been cut completely from the script. What did they need it for? They already had a great idea.

It's a shame. It could have been an absolutely brilliant satire of the American "poll mentality", and the quaint mental picture that Americans have of Canada. Instead, it's only a sporadically funny film with some inspired moments and some totally sophomoric crap. 

The Critics Vote

  • Maltin 2.5/4 

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.3 
  • With their dollars ... the movie bombed completely. Made for $11 million, it grossed less than $200,000, having been released two years after it was made.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C.

Return to the Movie House home page