Trailer Park Boys: The Movie has opened across Canada and, in its first week, shot to number one at the box office, grossing over a million dollars domestically. This is such a rare, almost unprecedented, achievement that, despite not even opening outside of Canada, it was reported in the news of the day on the American Internet Movie Database -- a Canadian movie number one at the Canadian box office!
And I'll freely admit -- I didn't see that one coming. Oh, sure, I figured it would do all right. I hoped it would. But I didn't expect it to do that well.
Trailer Park Boys: The Movie is about the comic misadventures of some low-life, fringe criminals and is a spin off from the TV series, The Trailer Park Boys, which was part of why I was skeptical. I mean, why pay ten bucks to see something you can watch on TV as part of your monthly cable package? Particularly as the filmmakers were bragging that this really was little more than an extended episode (albeit a little cruder and raunchier) -- it was still low budget, and there were no celebrity guest stars: no Roy Dupuis as a greedy developer intending to bulldoze the trailer park, no Paul Gross as a long lost cousin of "the boys". Nothing to make this "special", per se, or to attract non-fans.
As well, I'm just not a big fan of the series myself. I don't hate it, but I'm rather indifferent to it. And though I'd read articles about how popular is TPB (as it's abbreviated by fans), I tended to take those reports with a grain of salt. After all, Trailer Park Boys had become a darling of the critical intelligentsia -- the same people who assured us Traders was a mega hit, and that DaVinci's Inquest was watched by millions (even though it subsequently turned out its peak viewing numbers had plateaued around seven or eight hundred thousand). Plus there was the fact that it was on Showcase -- a cable station with a limited audience potential. Or there was the time when the series' producers headed to Hollywood, claiming they were going to sign a contract with the prestigious HBO station -- only to return home, "bragging" about how they had sold the series to...BBC America, and the alleged HBO deal was no longer being mentioned.
My skepticism can be, I think, understood. In fact, there's a cynical party of me that still wonders if, months down the line, we'll learn that the producers themselves bought up a bunch of tickets, just to boost the numbers as a marketing scheme. But that's just me being cynical.
The point is, Trailer Park Boys: The Movie is number one -- so break out the party hats. Whether or not it has legs, and can sustain such box office in the coming weeks, is still to be determined (nor do I know, off hand, how much it cost to make). Maybe word of mouth will turn it into a mega hit...or maybe everyone who wanted to see it saw it in its first week and its box office will drop off precipitously. But for the moment -- who cares? A Canadian movie is number one!
Does this suggest a new marketing dynamic for Canadian producers? Should a Corner Gas: The Movie be kicked into production? Well, maybe yes...but maybe no. After all, Duct Tape Forever -- a much anticipated feature film derived from the hit Red Green Show -- died at the box office. Of course, in my opinion, Duct Tape Forever wasn't very good and kind of lost the spirit of the series it was derived from. And, of course, Canadian TV successes are few and far between anyway. There's no real point in glutting the theatres with movies based on low rated TV series.
Besides, Trailer Park Boys, already a profanity laden TV series, can "justify" a movie by kicking it up a notch. Not really something Corner Gas can do. I mean, what would they do for a movie? Throw in gratuitous shower scenes involving Gabrielle Miller and Tara Spencer-Nairn? I mean, really.
Though, come to think of it...
Uh...where was I? Oh, right. Trailer Park Boys.
Admittedly, I'm not sure if TPB: The Movie's success will lead to anything further. Trailer Park Boys is so much its own hermetically sealed phenomenon, I'm not sure it will open the door for other Canadian movies down the line. Even the actors involved have so immersed themselves in their personas, even doing interviews in character, that I'm not sure it will prove advantageous for their careers -- the characters have definitely overshadowed the men who play them. And, as mentioned, since the movie, from the sounds of things, hasn't really tried to add in guest stars, it's not like the movie can be used to introduce TPBs fans to other Canadian actors.
Which is maybe a problem with Canadian film and TV -- rather than a community, where some long term planning and cross-marketing can be attempted, it's a business of self-styled independents where everyone is out for themselves.
But hey -- it's number one!
This comes at the same time that Bon Cop, Bad Cop has made over 11 million dollars, making it the highest grossing Canadian movie -- domestically -- well, ever! And though most of that was in Quebec, over a million was grossed in the rest of Canada. To put that in perspective, TPB aside, most English Canadian movies don't even make a million. So Bon Cop, Bad Cop may not have broken records in English Canada...but it did respectably.
I mentioned in an earlier essay that every time a Canadian movie does well, it might make it that much easier for the next movie, it might make it that much more chic to go see a Canadian movie. With Trailer Park Boys: the Movie coming on the heels of Bon Cop, Bad Cop, is it possible a certain momentum is building up? Possibly. But momentum is so easy to dispel. Based on the word of mouth, Bon Cop, Bad Cop was pretty good, as a mainstream, action-buddy comedy, and Trailer Park Boys: the Movie...well, seems to be giving fans what they want. But it won't take more than a couple of subsequent mediocre films to siphon off whatever audience good will these movies are generating for "Canadian film" as a whole.
Cultural purists might also shake their heads resignedly. After all, Bon Cop, Bad Cop, though intended to be quintessentially Canadian about a Francophone and Anglophone cop reluctantly teaming up, is very much derived from an American formula. And Trailer Park Boys, though some pundits have claimed its underdog heroes are uniquely Canadian...the argument could be made its gun totting, boorish anti-heroes are more evocative of American archetypes. After all, Trailer Park Boys: The Movie boasts as its producer Ivan Reitman -- an ex-pat Canadian who moved to the States years ago and hasn't bothered to look back. It's doubtful Reitman signed on board because he admired an idiosyncratically Canadian tone to the series.
But does all that matter? Well, that's a topic for another essay. For now -- "the boys" are number one. Chances are when I see the movie, I'll be as ambivalent about it as I am about their weekly adventures.
But -- so what? It ain't about me. They're number one -- and good for 'em! And maybe, just maybe, that's good for the Canadian film industry, too.
That's all for now,
The Masked Movie Critic
October 13, 2006
Back to The Great Canadian Guide to the Movies