They’re just movies. TIFF 17 Tips plus Blood Honey

Posted in Canada, Cultural Mining, Don McKellar, Family, Horror, Movies, Psychological Thriller, TIFF by CulturalMining.com on September 1, 2017

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.

TIFF — The Toronto International Film Festival — opens next week, and if you’ve never been there, I think it’s a good time to check it out. There are hundreds of movies from all over, many having their world premier, attended by directors and actors. There are feature length films, shorts, animation, documentaries, art films and more. Midnight Madness has late-night screenings of horror, action and the kind of movies that won’t you won’t see at the cineplex. Today I’m going to calm your fears and address your reservations about the film festival. And I’m also going to talk about a Canadian psychological horror/thriller about bees opening today.

How to survive TIFF

Photos by Jeff Harris

Standing in line.

A lot of people don’t want to go to TIFF because they hate standing in long lines. I feel the same way. But if you have a ticket – individual tickets go on sale Monday – you don’t have to stand in line. Just show up on time and you’re guaranteed a seat. But what if you don’t have a ticket? If the movie is sold out you can stand in the rush line, which lets you buy a ticket at the door. If there are less than say 30 people, and it’s a big theatre like the Princess of Wales, you’ll have no trouble getting in. And standing in line is the best way to meet people. Normally reserved Torontonians open up to the strangers standing beside them during TIFF.

It’s expensive.

This is true (if you didn’t buy ticket packages back in June or July). But don’t give up. They’re trying to attract those fabled “millenials”. So if you’re 25 or younger you can get tickets to world premiers for the price of an ordinary 3-D movie.

It’s hard to get tickets

If you’re not hung up on seeing gala hollywood movies and big stars, there are many tickets still available. Your best bet is to try for a daytime ticket on a weekday. You can look online. And on the last day, Sunday, Sept 17, they have a free showing of the movie that wins People’s Choice.

What to bring

If you’re seeing many movies, treat it like going on a trip. Be sure to hydrate yourself, bring food and drinks. Because the weather is constantly changing I recommend layers and an umbrella. You might go from blistering heat outside, to freezing cold inside.

Don’t care about movies but want to feel the excitement

Make your way down to King St W — between University and Spadina — to soak it all in. In the first weekend the street is closed to traffic, so you can stand in line for corporate samples, gawk at celebs or just hang out with the tens of thousands of others who come to show off their stuff. Maybe you’ll be discovered. There’s a carnival atmosphere that’s a lot of fun to soak in.

Next weekend is the best time to check it out.

Blood Honey

Dir: Jeff Kopas

When Jenibel (Shenae Grimes-Beech) was a little girl she lived in a tiny community in Northern Ontario. Reachable only by boat or byplane, it sits among lakes and trees torn straight out of a Tom Thompson painting. But when her disturbed mother committed suicide she was sent away to boarding schoo. And now she’s back at the Hive, as the people who live on the island refer to it. Her family lives in a beautiful old mansion, but makes most of its money selling their prized honey.

There’s her belligerent brother Neil (Kenneth Mitchell), her deranged Dad (Gil Bellows) and her loving sister Linda, who has Down Syndrome (Krystal Hope Nausbaum). Also on the island are acquisitive land developers, a demented old lady and other assorted locals. They all get together in Jennibel’s living room to sing old favourites by the rinckity piano she still remembers how to play. Things are tense, but at least her childhood friend Bruce is there to keep her company – in and out of bed.

But things get worse when dad commits suicide by bee. (He throws himself into the honeycombs until swarmed to death.) And in his last breath he makes Jenny promise to sell the island so the family can get a fresh start. Family friend Bert (Don McKellar) is the estate executor — he will enforce the will. But family bickering is rising to a fevered pitch. And—I forget to mention – Jennibel suffers from “waking dreams” where she can see dead people and communicate with her late Dad and Mom. Is she delusional or psychic? When she begins to suspect the others are all gradually poisoning her with the dreaded red honey harvested on the island, she knows she has to escape from the Hive. But how?

Blood Honey is an over-the-top psychological thriller shot on location in beautiful northern Ontario. The acting and script ranges from very good to not very good at all — sometimes from scene to scene. But it’s never jarring enough to lose interest. It’s more weird and creepy than scary or gory, though there are a few shocking parts. This movie is not believable in any way, but it doesn’t have to be. And there are a few plot turns that I never expected.

Blood Honey opens today in Toronto; check your local listings. And for more information on tiff go to tiff.net for details.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning, on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com.

Is Toronto Broken? Movies Reviewed: This Movie is Broken, Thomas Pynchon: a Journey into the Mind of P

Do you ever get the feeling the city is broken? That everything is splitting apart at the seams? A honking parade of cars promoting exuberant football nationalism every time a ball enters a net half a world away, bringing traffic to a halt for a half a day with whistles, buzzing vuvuzelas and rhythmic car horns. And south of there, something more sinister: rows of riot police securitizing the crowned heads from potential cherry bombs, demanding photo ID’s from subway riders and arresting people as they come out for resembling someone “described in an anonymous phone call, ma’am”.

And making sure nobody gets too close to the downtown Freedom Fence. Yup, the G-20 is in town. Aah… I love the smell of teargas in the morning.

What to do? Well, you can always rub that magic lantern and end up at a movie. And if you’re feeling really rebellious, go to an indie movie in an underground movie theatre. Escapism does have a purpose after all.

One movie that seems especially appropriate is called “This Movie is Broken: a Rock Show Romance”, directed by Bruce McDonald (who did Road Kill, Hard Core Logo, and Pontypool), and written by Don McKellar. I caught it at last week’s NXNE music festival.

This is a totally Toronto movie, a concert film shot last summer, featuring Broken Social Scene, with a bunch of guest musicians all up on a stage at Harbourfront. But it’s also a very low key “boy meets girl” story.

The guy (Greg Calderone) tells his best buddy that he just woke up in bed, not with just anyone, but with the woman he had a crush on as a nine year old. His ultimate crush. Pretty, sophisticated Caroline (Georgina Reilly) is studying anthropology in Paris. Can you believe it? His blonde bearded buddy (played by Kerr Hewitt, wearing what a friend of mine refers to as an ironic hat) gets him to play up his status. When Caroline says she’s too busy to hang out that night, he casually says that’s too bad, cause I coulda got us a back stage pass at the Broken Social Scene concert. Oh yeah? says Caroline. That’s what I’m busy doing tonight. Oops. So he has to somehow get her into the concert by hook or by crook. Like I said, it’s a concert movie and a lightweight romance.

But I thought it went together perfectly. I’m not a follower of the band, so as an outsider – not a music critic or a fan of the group – I really enjoyed, and was totally entranced by the performances. This is one of those cases where just the story would have been too silly, and just the concert would have been too concert-y for me, but the sum total was just right.

Interestingly, the movie was shot last summer during the contract dispute (between the city government and the public workers, when no garbage was collected and it was deposited instead in city parks and baseball diamonds, with the garbage mountains reaching epic proportions). So it’s good, gritty, scenic Toronto. Since we survived that we can survive this, too.

Another movie I stumbled upon at NXNE, that should be easy to find online — it was made nine years ago. It’s a German/Swiss documentary: “Thomas Pynchon: a Journey into the Mind of P.”, directed by Donatello and Fosco Dubini.

This is a weird one! Pynchon is the guy who wrote the momentous tome Gravity’s Rainbow, and the more compact novel with the shorter name V. His books, and the movie itself, covers the huge, disturbing themes and incidents that obsessed people in the 69’s and 70’s: The Cuban Missile Crisis, the cold war, The assassination of JFK, the Vietnam war, LSD, the CIA, rockets to the moon… stuff like that. So, naturally, an obsessive cult has sprung up around this writer. What does he look like? Where does he live? Pynchon is known as a recluse who has never had his picture taken and whose personal information is kept, well, private.

So, apparently, urban legends about the guy abound. Did he use to dress up as a woman to go to bookstores unrecognized? Did he meet Lee Harvey Oswald on a crucial airplane trip? What’s his real connection to Timothy Leary? And the CIA? And who really showed up to accept the National Book Award for Gravity’s Rainbow?

And in the background to all these strange unexplained mysteries is footage of subway rides sped up, and music slowed down featuring The Replacements. Warped 60’s pop hits slowed down and distorted till they sounds like this: Yummy Yummy yummy I’ve got love in my tummy… and C’mon baby light my fire… but stuck in tar. And then a train goes into a tunnel… I wonder that means? It’s a strange, low-budget, pop culture documentary about the followers of the Pynchon cult, and worth seeing.

But if you want some real escapism, to get away from it all, there are two new places in Toronto to do that. First, there will be two days of free movies at Carlton and Yonge street in the theatre there. It used to be the Cineplex Carlton, but closed a while back, and is now being re-opened as the Magic Lantern Carlton Theatre. It’s part of the same chain that operates the Rainbow Theatres, which are a little cheesy but a lot of fun, and always packed with students on a budget – they charge lower prices than the big chains, but show first-run movies on the old Cineplex-style small screens.

So now’s your chance to see all the ones you wanted to catch – academy award nominees, good kids movies, foreign films – all at one place. You can see Sarah Polley’s movie Away from Her, based on an Alice Munroe story about Alzheimers, the really great animated Fantastic Mr Fox, The Japanese movie Departures, about funerals, Atom Egoyan’s Chloe, and even How to Train your Dragon – an animated kids movie about a Viking kid who meets a dragon, but a really good one that all ages can enjoy.

I liked it.

Another movie theatre that recently opened downtown is the aptly named Toronto Underground Cinema. I last went to that theatre when it was the Golden Harvest, one of the last Chinese language movie houses – it’s at 186 Spadina, north of Queen. I still remember watching a Hong Kong zombie comedy (zom-com) where they put on the third reel of the film right after the first reel – and no one noticed for a while, everyone just thought the plot was a bit jumpy.

The theatre still has that slightly off-beat, don’t-know-what-to-expect feel about it. The Toronto Underground is deep underground, literally. It’s a nice big place, good stage and screen, popcorn, and cool old plumbing fixtures. The three guys who run this theatre program everything from amazing documentaries like “Gasland”, to cult classics like “Lady Terminator”, to present-day schlock like “MacGruber”.

They seem to be reviving the double feature – putting together two good movies that go together. If you’re in the mood this weekend, and really want to escape, what could be better than “Hot Tub Time Machine” matched with “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. Toronto Underground is another theatre that attracts noisy and fun audiences ready to hoot and holler at the good parts.

This city is not broken at all  —  you just have to know where to go.

Heroes, Anti-heroes, and their followers. Films Reviewed: The Trotsky, Ryan Trecartin, Leslie, My Name is Evil, MacGruber.

Today I’m going to look at movies with different kinds of heroes, or anti-heroes, and the movements that some of them inspire. The hero or heroine might be misguided, but if their aims are true (in movies) good will surely triumph.

The Trotsky
Dir: Jacob Tierney

Jay Baruchel plays a boy, Leon, in anglo, West Montreal who, although from a rich family himself, is upset by, and wants to overthrow the entire capitalist system. When he unsuccessfully tries to organize his father’s factory workers into a union, for the first time he is placed into the public school system. Once there, though oddly dated in his speech and behavior and clothing, he gradually gets a following: his apathetic classmates who want change in the system. Sorta. When they’re not smoking or texting or gossiping.

Oh – and did I mention he actually believes he’s the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky, and that he’ll meet an older woman named Alexandra who will fall in love with him? Yeah, Leon’s a bit nutty, with his little round glasses, scrunched up forehead and gesticulating arms.

The movie takes a cute look at Old Left politics in a modern-day Montreal setting, seen through the eyes of a misunderstood, neurotic kid, who, though he espouses century-old slogans, is media savvy enough to call up reporters in his fights against the school board. He wants to gain supporters to achieve his goal of organizing his fellow students. Will Leon’s goal be realized? As a vanguard leader of the proletariat can he organize them to shake off the chains of inequality by overthrowing the land-owning bourgeoisie, and their running dog lackeys (personified by his school principal — Colm Feore — and his Miss Grundy)? Hmmm… Or is this movie more like a season finale to a Degrassi episode? No – it’s better than that.

A simple premise, with a well-written, dense plot, good Canadian cast (Genevieve Bujold, Saul Rubinek), and lots of visual references — spanning Maoism, black panthers, the Spanish civil war, Che Guevera, bolshevism, anarchism, The Battleship Potemkin, and Vietnam war resisters. It’s a good, cute, low budget movie with a very Canadian feel.

Any Ever; and In Short

Various art videos by Ryan Treacartin

OK, I have to admit, the first time I saw a Ryan Trecartin video, an hour long monstrosity of jarring flash editing with self-centred teenagers shrieking like characters from “Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Squeakquel”, I have to admit, I haven’t been that pissed off at a so-called work of art in a long time. Who can watch this crap? Who wants to see people in grotesque make up and fright wigs randomly shouting nonsense in distorted voices, while tired, corporate logos drift endlessly across a laptop screen. Incomprehensibly bland video titles, jarring cuts and zooms, post-structuralist posturing… It’s insulting! Bleaaaagh!

Then something happened.

It started to look… pretty. It started to look nice. Some of the words started to be funny. Some even made sense. I began to love the sound of breaking glass.

Then I went to the Power Plant, where his one-man show, Any Ever, is now finishing its run. Seen projected on huge screens, in small rooms, with comfortable chairs and beds and earphones provided, where you can walk in and out, it all becomes pleasant, hypnotic, hilarious… fun.

I started watching his stuff on youtube.What is this? What’s going on? It’s weird… it’s… it’s.. Gay. It’s ghey. (It is gay). But it’s not the “gay” you see on TV sitcoms. Nothing so safe.

Picture a whole field of gay, in say, southern Manitoba, that have these little purple flowers. And each purple flower has a little stamen in it. And they pick them, and pile them all together, and crush them, and boil them, and distill them, and refine that into a potent substance — a gay reduction. Where you can detect a single drop a mile away.

Well, Ryan Trecartin has jugs of this in his storage room, and he splashes it on everything, saturating it. His work is drenched in gay, dripping with it. It’s overwhelming. It’s the gayest art, the gayest videos on the face of the earth. And his films are amazing.

It turns out, the lines aren’t random at all – they’re composed. The editing, the costumes, even the hiring of Mickey Mouse club audition rejects who vent on camera in annoyingly arch voices… all planned. And those strangely recurring images of twelve year old girls, the Avon ladies, the post-mastectomy yoga enthusiasts… some of these people are him, Ryan, in a wig, in make up, crying.

And the stuff that made me angry, because there were no real stories? There are stories in most of his videos. Epic stories.

Anyway, it’s not all comfortable stuff, not the kind of thing you can sit through for too long, but in small doses, it’s a heady experience.

And on Saturday, May 22, he’s showing some of is earlier work– as part of the Inside Out Festival, Toronto’s LGBT film and video festival, and in collaboration with Power Plant and Pleasure Dome — “In Short”, in person.

“Leslie, My Name is Evil”, (Directed by Reginald Harkema), is about a boy, Perry, a born again Christian, who is placed on the jury for the trial of Charles Manson and his female followers, where he has to figure out if his passion for the beautiful, accused murderess Leslie is real, or if he’s being fooled by her seductive ways.

In a crucial early scene, Perry and his girlfriend look through a Chick publications comic book. (Ever seen those weird fundamentalist comic book pamphlets where the ordinary people – led astray by marijuana, sexuality, abortion, devil worship, the Pope, rock and roll – are saved from the pool of fire when they accept Jesus into their heart?)

After Perry sees the comic, Leslie and Perry (played by Canadian actors Kristen Hager and Gregory Smith) find themselves sucked into a meta-world, a dreamy vortex, where the evil forces of Charles Manson fight against the light of God beaming out from the born-again contingent. This little comic book sets the tone for a large part of the movie, a chunk of the plot filtered through a Chick comic motif. All of the cultural extremes of the sixties — moralistic sermons mixed with pop culture, surreal dreams with news footage and newspaper headlines, a fundamentalist view of politics vs the nihilistic evil of Charles Manson’s death cult – are seen by Perry (and the audience) deep inside his head.

At times this movie resembles William Klein’s pop art film Mr Freedom (from 1969), with its bold images. And I loved the psychedelic, rock soundtrack. The thing is, sometimes “Leslie, my name is Evil” — with its highly stylized scenes, scripted dialogue, and intentionally artificial, almost camp acting — feels more like a live play than a movie. It doesn’t always hold together: the movie feels a bit disjointed, and the acting is inconsistent, sometimes realistic and moving, other times just silly.

Lines like: “What kind of pinko commie nonsense is that!” and “Don’t fret Dorothy, God will protect us” were too much for me. (But could this just be the comic book swirling in Perry’s head…?)

This made it harder to sympathize with the main characters, or, especially, to believe that the young women were really mesmerized by a svengali figure like Charles Manson – he just didn’t seem as hypnotic and compelling as he’s supposed to be. But the bold, pop-art feel and the great soundtrack helps the movie hold together its complicated, original take on the Manson Girls.

MacGruber

MacGruber is a new movie based on a repeated 15-second-long skit from Saturday Night Live, where MacGruber, Vickie, and a third person, watch the hero MacGruber fail to defuse a bomb and they all blow up. “MACGRUUU-BER!” In the movie version, (which takes about 5,895 seconds longer to get to the final punchline) he’s known as a ridiculously accomplished hero, and the only one who can defeat Val Kilmer’s villainous character, Dieter von Cunth, from using his nuclear weapon.

Anyway, the plot, such as it is, isn’t very important. Neither are the lines. Just the characters and the premise. The real question is: Can a single, ten-second gag survive an hour and a half long movie? No, it can’t.

So they added a few more jokes, about MacGruber tearing out people’s throats and sticking pieces of celery up his bum. Hyuk, hyuk, hyuk!

Ok I laughed at some of it. And a few parts were really funny (like MacGruber in bed with his girlfriend). It wasn’t exactly boring, just pretty stupid. Like Saturday Night Live has always been. Don’t mess with the proven formula: find a mildly funny premise or punchline, drag that joke out into an eight-minute scene, then repeat it over and over and over again, season after season. That’s Saturday Night Live.

Will Forte as MacGruber, works well with Kristen Wiig as Vickie St Elmo, and Ryan Philippe as the special guest star. If you like SNL, you might just like this movie. But do you really want to watch a whole movie based on a so-so joke?

Strangers in a Strange Land: Alice in Wonderland, The Green Zone, Cooking with Stella

To provide adventure, mystery or comedy, directors often turn to far-away locations to add a bit of novelty to their films. The hero often starts out as a stranger in a weird place, a fish out of water, but over the course of the movie, she learns to adapt, fit in, fall in love, become friends… or else escapes out of that strange hell-hole she found herself in. In a good movie set abroad, you get to see some things you never would otherwise, maybe get to know some local characters — not just the hero from back home — and, ideally, hear them speak in a language the viewer can understand, or at least one with subtitles.

A bad movie of this type (like the popular and critically acclaimed “Lost in Translation”) just uses the locals as scenery, their lines untranslated, leaving the viewer in the dark as to their real characters. It’s ideal for conveying fear or alienation, but good for little else.

Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” tells a new version of the well-known story, the ultimate stranger in a strange land. His version is a different take on Lewis Carroll’s book, or, you could say, a remake of the original Disney cartoon.

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is now an extremely rich, young woman in Victorian England, not a little girl, who is at a garden party at her palatial estate. When she has to make a big decision, with hundreds of people watching, she decides instead to chase a white rabbit down his hole. There she finds herself in Wonderland, or “Underland”, where she discovers friends and enemies all of whom seem to know her, but aren’t sure she’s the real Alice (I’m not sure either).

Her friends — the Dormouse, the March Hare, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat — tell her she must find the vorpal sword and slay the Jabberwocky, snicker-snack, on a specific day. Her enemies, the fractious, dictatorial Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter) who likes to yell “Off with their heads!” and her suitor, the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) are busy looking for Alice, not knowing it even when they see her. Alice herself gradually shifts from being a naïve passive character, to a Joan of Arc-style heroine.

Some parts of this movie were a lot of fun, and there were some neat images added to it – the deck of cards that made up the Queen of Hearts’ army were much stronger and scarier — more metallic, less paper-y — than the original drawings by John Tenniel.

But so much of the original Alice depended on its caricatures, fun plays on words, puzzles, symbols, and poem and song parodies, which were largely dumped in this version. The one poem used, The Jabberwocky, was given too much prominence, with its unusual nonsense vocabulary (like “frabjous day”) repeated way too often in the story line. I suppose they wanted it to make sense – to small children, I guess.

I wasn’t that taken by this movie. The costumes and the design were impressive, and it had a great cast, but that’s not enough to keep me rapt. I think this version was made for small children, and has minimal appeal to adults.

Its biggest problem is that a lot of the absurdity and irony of the original is gone. Caricatures might work as political cartoons on paper, but not on the much more real move screen. When I was a kid, I liked the poems like “You are old Father William”, and “The Walrus and the Carpenter” because they were cruelly funny. That’s all been neatly scrubbed away and Disneyfied, replaced with a hard-line literalness, no irony, few twists, and fewer hints of psychedelia than even the old Disney cartoon. If the book was The Simpsons, this movie is The Flintstones.

“Green Zone”, directed by Paul Greengrass, is a movie about the reasons given by the US to justify the war in Iraq, and how one American soldier tries to uncover the truth.

Roy Miller (Matt Damon), a soldier in Iraq in 2004, is in charge of a team in Baghdad looking for weapons of mass destruction – the “WMDs” that were the reason US and Britain gave for invading that country. But his searches are turning up nothing. He thinks the intelligence they’re using is faulty. But whenever he questions it within the military he’s told there is no problem with the information, and to follow his orders and shut up. Then a local man (Khalid Abdalla) gives Miller some potentially significant news about former Iraqi government officials.

With the help of his new-found friend (“Call me Freddy”), Miller breaks up a meeting in progress, and briefly glimpses one of the men, Al Rawi, whose picture was on the “most wanted“ deck of cards that were actually issued by the US government during this war.

Miller, frustrated, turns to the CIA, as represented by a tubby, middle-aged agent named Brown. Brown casually tosses him a million dollars in cash in a knapsack to pass on to persons of interest. Meanwhile, other American officials are doing what they can to stymie his plans. Who will come out on top? What’s the secret? Is the embedded journalist, a Judith Miller-type character, reliable? Are there any WMDs at all? And what is Al Rawi’s secret information?

Green Zone is a fast-moving war flick about the big issue of US culpability for invading Iraq, as investigated by Matt Damon’s everyman soldier, and the Iraqi contact he works with. While not an anti-war movie – it depends on guns, explosions, helicopters, chases and shootouts for its eye-candy – it is clearly against the US excuses for invading Iraq. US culpability is rarely seen in mainstream movies.

The Director, Paul Greengrass, likes jiggly hand-held camera shots, and a documentary-style. To lend authenticity, he liberally borrows scenes from movies like the fantastic 2004 documentary “Gunner Palace”, which had GI’s sunbathing by swimming pools in half-destroyed Baghdad mansions. So a lot of the movie is interesting to watch. And as a shootout-mystery-thriller, Green Zone’s not bad either.

Cooking with Stella”, Canadian Director Dilap Mehta’s first film, is about another set of people in a distant place. Maya and Michael, a Canadian diplomatic couple placed in New Delhi (played by Donald McKellar and Lisa Ray) are settling in at the High Commission.

Michael (who’s character was based on the real-life chef at Rideau Hall in Ottawa), finds himself with not much to do in New Delhi. So he tries to get their servant and cook, Stella, a Christian Indian woman known for her skill in the kitchen, to become his guru, and introduce him to Indian cooking. Luckily, the movie is more than a cooking show. It’s actually a sort of an upstairs-downstairs look at clueless expat Canadians and their wily, crooked servants who take advantage of them at the drop of a hat.

The Canadians are really side characters – Don McKellar is there more as the straight man than the comic. The main plot involves Stella (played by the very funny Seema Biswas) and the gambling, drinking, black marketeering, and paybacks that are her daily bread and butter in her little subcultural fiefdom within the embassy. When an innocent new nanny, Tannu, threatens to upset Stella’s world with her honesty, she realizes she needs a new plan. Her goals become larger and even more nefarious, but end up with Stella being kidnapped. What will become of her?

The movie is a cute, small film, with a fairly low budget, and a first-time director, so — judging by those criteria — it’s enjoyable and not bad. There’s a bit of Bollywood parody scenes, some colourful views of an outdoor food market, some funny dialogue. (It also has some painfully lame gags involving driving on the wrong side of the road, and some obvious joke set-ups) It’s loaded with lots of Canadian references — Group of Seven and Norval Morisseau pictures on the walls; a Welcome / Bienvenue sign on a foreboding embassy fence – but it concentrates less on the strangers in the strange land, more on the interesting local characters.

Actually, I liked the scenes that reminded me of Mira Nair’s movie “Monsoon Wedding”, also a comedy about the inter-linked worlds of families and their servants in India. The blah, Canadian-focused scenes were what dragged this movie down a bit and made it palatable but bland. But see it for great, funny Indian characters in a Canadian movie.

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