John Candy (in one of his last roles) stars as Boomer, the dimwitted sheriff of Niagara Falls, NY, just south of the Canadian border. With his colleagues and pals Honey (Cheers’ Rhea Perlman), Kabral (Bill Nunn) and Roy Boy (Kevin J. O’ Connor), he likes to drink and have mindless fun. Meanwhile at the White House, the President (Alan Alda) is confronted by an Army General (Rip Torn) and the Secretary of Defense (Kevin Pollack). They believe that ending the Cold War wasn’t such a good thing since it meant having to close hugely profitable weaponry industries. Plus, the US government can no longer blame the Russians for everything and might have to justify themselves before the population. They certainly don’t want to do that : they prefer to find a new enemy for the Americans to hate and fear, and at the same time forget about more complex problems. They choose Canada as their scapegoat. Hey, Canadians are just above, and they can cross the frontier and walk among Americans unnoticed! So the high-placed officials start creating a war out of thin air, with US soldiers posing as Canadian terrorists and creating a media frenzy. But dumbasses like Boomer and his buddies start taking all this too seriously and might really start a conflict!
Here’s proof that it’s not enough to be smart and witty to make a good movie. I enjoy Michael Moore’s irreverent attitude, which he showcased in such sharp documentaries as “Roger & Me” and “The Big One”, and I think that he has an interesting take on the American way; his book “Downsize This!” is full of politically incorrect common sense. But when it comes to fiction, you need an ability to tell a story effectively and in an inventive way. There are some interesting ideas in Canadian Bacon, but most of them fall flat because of Moore’s flat screenwriting and lazy direction. What makes a good satire is subtlety. You can’t just go, “The government sucks”. That’s just childish, boring, ineffective blabber. You got to reflect a reality and just slightly point out what’s ridiculous about it. Moore doesn’t do that, he just keeps throwing obvious attacks at American chauvinistic, capitalist thinking, its obsession with solving problems with weapons and spin doctoring. His movie touches some of the same ground as “Wag the Dog”, but Barry Levinson’s 1997 satire is much smarter.
In fact, the only thing that I kind of enjoyed in “Canadian Bacon” is the ridiculous misconceptions Americans have about us Canadians. Are we really all beer drinking, odd-talking, overly polite and clean hockey fans whose winter lasts 11 months and who rely on the Royal Mounted Canadian Police? But if Moore’s satirical vision of how Canada could become dangerous is amusing, it’s not followed on enough. There is a 5 minute sequence that’s pretty good, in which a news bulletin warns Americans against everything Canadian, from ice skates to maple syrup, the CN tower, the metric system, socialism, Molson beer and stars such as Mike Myers, William Shatner and Michael J. Fox. But besides that, the movie is just a series of weak attempts at comedy. John Candy was unable not to be likable on screen, but even him can’t save this misfire, which never really made me laugh. Not a total failure, but certainly not worth the hassle.