A schmaltzy, gimmick-laden film that falls all over itself asking a bunch of insecure, clichéd questions that only a few last-generation Canadians could possibly be interested in the answers to.
'Being Canadian' myself (see what I did there?), I was excited to watch a documentary that claimed to explore the Canadian experience, but this is just another zero-budget documentary that exists mostly as a self-promoting vehicle for the filmmaker. I don't know where this narcissistic style of documentary came from, but there's literally a ton of films lately that feature self-obsessed tools, talking endlessly about themselves while they superficially examine the topic the film is supposedly about. If you've seen 'That Sugar Movie' or 'Super Size Me' or 'Milk?', you'll probably know what I mean.
You might guess that a Canuck like me would be more willing to give this film a decent rating, but the artificiality of the narration and Cohen's faux anxiety and self-doubt were practically unbearable. It also doesn't represent any Canadians I know. Worse yet, because the questions were so superficial, not one of the interviews brought anything new to the table, despite some honest and sincere engagement from a number of Canadian celebrities.
But wait, that's not all — every single Canadian stereotype was trotted out, giggled over, and then branded as 100% absolutely true with little serious analysis. Canadians drink maple syrup by the glass! Love curling! Eat poutine! Watch hockey! Wear toques! Cohen puts a great deal of effort into trying to keep Canadians the 2-dimensional 'South Park' characters most Americans are familiar with.
This film is just two parts demeaning and three parts dumb. In fact, the whole conceit of the film is that Cohen is driving cross-country to arrive in Vancouver on July 1st for the Canada Day holiday... but when he arrives in Ottawa, all the footage shown is of people sledding, skating to work on the Rideau canal, or freezing their butts off outside the Prime Minister's residence. All this, at the end of June, supposedly. This is how stupid Cohen thinks the audience for this film is.
'Member 'Beachcombers!'! And 'member 'The Littlest Hobo'! Ugh.
Many interesting aspects of Canadian history were glossed over or totally butchered. For example, yes, the White House was indeed burned down, but that was done solely by the British in The War of 1812. British forces, from Britain, landing in Maryland from Bermuda and prior to that, Spain. Yes, if you want to get technical, the territory that would eventually become Canada was a British colony at the time, but so was Australia, and I think everyone can agree that it would sound pretty dumb if an Australian claimed to have burned down the White House. So, 10/10 for propagating dumb Canadian historical myths, I guess.
But if I'm really going to gripe about this film, let me get it all out of my system. Canada's proud legacy as a peacekeeping nation was skipped over entirely. No Terry Fox shout-out. No mention of Vimy Ridge, arguably the turning point of World War I. No mention of our 200,000+ square miles of national parks. No mention of The Highway of Heroes. No reference to Canada's Indigenous Peoples and their history and culture, outside of a quick glance at a painting owned by (surprise surprise) Cohen's mother. For that matter, there was no mention of any part of Canada not within 100 miles of the U.S. border. No Territories. No P.E.I. No Nunavut. No Newfoundland. No Labrador. And forget mentioning our amazing brand of socialism, or our national health care, or all the great films being made in Vancouver and Toronto lately, or the fact that our progressive government legalized the crap out of same-sex marriage way back in 2005 and is all geared up to do the same to marijuana next year.
But, yeah, skip all that. Let's talk about hockey, doughnuts, and Rob Ford smoking crack instead.
What a lame, sad, missed opportunity of a film. It is a ham-fisted, reductive view of Canada from someone apparently living thirty years in the past, still sporting the jealousy and passive-aggression that comes from constantly comparing themselves to the U.S., when fewer and fewer Canadians are even capable of seeing ourselves through that lens any more. Today's Canadians look south of the border and see Donald Trump, gun violence, racial tension, a sensationalist news media, and plummeting SAT scores in reading and math. And some of us are actually considering the possibility that, gosh darn it, Canada must be doing something right, eh?