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Tomb Raider vs. Spy Kids:
...and Canadians caught in the middle.


I normally write editorials about the Canadian entertainment biz, but today I'm doing something a bit different. Today I'm musing about Hollywood productions and how they relate to Canada -- and Canadians' view of themselves as an independent people.

You see, I was thinking about the movie Tomb Raider.

Tomb Raider is a video game that was spun off into a big budget movie a couple of years ago -- Lara Croft, Tomb Raider starring American Angelina Jolie as a British adventurer. Recently a sequel has hit the theatres. It's a big-budget Hollywood movie (possibly with some British partners) that has nothing to do with Canada, per se. The first Tomb Raider was a mildy enjoyable, if thin, adventure-fantasy movie. The sequel has been getting mixed reviews (though most seem to agree that it's better than the first), but has faired less well at the box office. In fact, it was ranked something like third or fourth at the American box office, behind Bad Boys II, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Spy Kids 3D. Not far behind, perhaps, but behind.

But here's the catch. According to the ad in a (Canadian) newspaper, Lara Croft, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life is actually the number one movie...in Canada (at least at the time of my writing this editorial, which is a few days prior to its actual posting on this web site). So whatever the movie's fortunes in the United States, Canadians seem a little more smitten with Ms. Jolie's action heroine. It's intriguing when one is reminded that U.S. and Canadian audiences aren't necessarrily homogenous (for instance it's long been claimed that Canadians "get" Briish humour more than do Americans, and it was said that the U.S. TV series, "The West Wing", was initially more popular in Canada than in the U.S.).

However, scanning over the movie listings in that same Canadian paper, the movie Spy Kids 3D proclaimed itself the "No. 1 movie in North America" (again, at the time I'm writing this).

That's where things become provocative. What the ad really means is: it's the number one movie in the United States, but because the population of the U.S. is so much larger than Canada's, that technically makes it the number one movie for the continent. The advertisement doesn't say "The No. 1 movie in the United States" because that just emphasizes to a potential Canadian consumer that it's not the number one movie in Canada. So, instead, the ad proclaims it's number one in North America. That's not technically a lie -- but is it honest?

Does it matter which Hollywood movie is doing better in Canada?

It depends on your point of view. The age old debate in Canada about Canadian identity is, frankly, do Canadians have one? -- an identity, I mean. There has been enormous pressure over the decades, from forces within Canada, not just outside of it, to bring Canada closer and closer to the United States economically, culturally, and politically. To basically insure that Canada exists as a separate nation in nothing but name. Despite this pressure, recent surveys of American and Canadian attitudes apparently do reflect national differences.

Yet, as mentioned, there are a lot of elements within Canada -- usually from the far right of the political spectrum -- who would like very much to see this independent streak beaten out of Canadians for good. Everytime Canadians think of themselves as, well, Canadians, these thinkers would argue, it annoys American policy makers and that, in turn, is bad for business.

So what does that have to do with which movie is doing better in which country?

If one were to take this debate into a political arena, we would more clearly see the problems. In Canada, which has a form of universally accessible health care, most Canadians strongly support a health care system -- it's become one of those things Canadians define themselves by. In the United States, which does not have such a system, one's impression is that most Americans are opposed to it (believing it's the vanguard of soviet tyranny or something, I guess). Now if someone were advocating the dismantling of the Canadian health care, and were to claim there was popular support for this initiative by citing a poll indicating most "North Americans" don't want a health care system...we would consider that a gross distortion of the facts, even misinformation.

By describing Spy Kids 3D as the number one movie in North America it subtly removes the concept of an independent Canada from the picture. It's actually kind of insulting. Most Canadians seeing that advertisement for Spy Kids 3D won't stop to consider what it means. They won't realize that, essentially, it's really saying the movie is simply number one in a foreign country (much as Johnny English was a big hit in Europe), but that Canadians are actually favouring something else.

Sure, this just involves various Hollywood summer popcorn movies. It's not that important.

But don't Canadians get to decide which popcorn they prefer?

That's all for now,
The Masked Movie Critic

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