Review: Fubar II

Filed under: Reviews

Those with a relative knowledge of Canadian cinema may very well be familiar with Pete and Joey, the two protagonists from Don Shebib's 1970 film Goin' Down the Road, a piece that one could argue was essential marking a move for Canadian films from the proliferation of National Film Board documentaries to fiction features. For those who are unfamiliar with these characters –- or their satirical counterparts on an SCTV sketch based on Shebib's film -- Pete and Joey were two affable and irresponsible men who drove from their blue-collar hometown in Cape Breton to the big city of Toronto with hopes of "making it," but ultimately and brutally fail in this attempt. If Pete and Joey became paradigmatic as the prototypical ineffectual male protagonist that proliferated in Canadian cinema in stark contrast to his Hollywood-hero counterpart, this archetype has now been taken up by Terry and Dean, the two Alberta-based alcoholic metal-heads (and I do not use this term in a derogatory sense) from the mockumentary Fubar whose love of loud music, shotgunning canned pilsner, and "giv'n 'er" established them as the new breed of the blue-collar Canadian anti-hero. And thank God they are back in Fubar II, again directed by Michael Dowse and co-written by David Lawrence who plays Terry.

Now in some ways Fubar II has the potential to depart from what lent the original its charm. First, while the film retains its documentary-like aesthetics, such as characters addressing the camera directly, its appeal to a documentary mode is not as overt as in the original, which made the filming of Terry and Dean by a film crew, under the direction of the ill-fated Farrel. In F2, the extent to which it is a film within a film is less important, especially in a sequence that features a moment of spectral reanimation (i.e. appearance of a ghost) that would be quite aberrant within the tradition of the Canadian documentary. F2 is also more driven by narrative than its predecessor. Rather than the day (or days) in the life sense in which the film crew trailed Terry and Dean around their hometown, F2 follows the perpetual slackers as they move to Fort McMurray to work in the oil-sands with visions of lucrative salaries, disability benefits, and EI on the horizon, complemented by stories of love, maturity, and friendship that follow in the wake of this journey.

However, what makes F2 so great is that these potential departures from the original formula do not actually depart from it. The environmental conflict between the pro- and anti-oilsands ideologies are given approximately 2 minutes of hilarious footage before the film solidly, and admirably, moves away from politics to such moments of cinematic genius as Terry using an oil-pipe as a mock phallus, Dean slow-dancing with a manipulative strip-club waitress as they both mouth Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn", and the revelation of the TRUE gift-giving Christmas entity –- a Japanese shape-shifter named Shanto Claus.

In short, F2 is precisely what's lacking in Canadian cinema – a sense of humour with enough self-reflexivity to be aware that Terry and Dean are not an embodiment of any sub-conscious Canadian psyche. While it does derive a certain amount of art-cinema "cred" through its documentary style, this film is not a thoughtful consideration of socio-political issues, even if it may nod to such issues like, again, the oil-sands, terminal illness, infidelity or alcoholism. But these issues merely provide a backdrop that highlights the blissful ignorance that Terry and Dean hold toward their surroundings. And far from being a slight, it is precisely this laissez-faire attitude toward what may be considered the important events of the day that will allow the Fubar franchise to stand as an anomaly in Canada's national cinema by actually appealing to an audience who wants to go to a film to smile rather than rub their beard (real or metaphorical) in a contemplative fashion. Does this mean the film is, a "masterpiece" (scare quotes intentional)? Of course not. But sometimes you just want American Pie 2 more than The Sweet Hereafter.

Tags: Fubar II, Michael Dowse, David Lawrence, Paul Spence, Canadian

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