'Being Canadian': Film Review

Being Canadian Mike Myers - H 2015
Courtesy of Candy Factory Films
Watch it with donuts and beer.

Robert Cohen's documentary about our northern neighbor features commentary from a slew of Canadian-born celebrities.

Here's the main reaction you're likely to have while watching Robert Cohen's comic documentary about his homeland: "I didn't know (fill in the blank) was Canadian!"

Indeed, Being Canadian trots out an endless array of celebrities, an alarming number of them comic talents, who hail from the Great White North. Here's but a partial list: Mike Myers, Dan Aykroyd, David Steinberg, Cobie Smulders, Martin Short, Nathan Fillion, Alex Trebek, Michael J. Fox, Alannis Morissette, Eugene Levy, Jason Priestly, Seth Rogen, Catherine O'Hara, and even Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner.

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They're all on hand to provide observations for this film exploring what it means to be a Canadian, directed by Cohen, a Calgary-born television writer/director with such shows among his credits as The Big Bang Theory, Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons and The Ben Stiller Show.

The film is whimsically structured around a road trip from Halifax to Vancouver timed for an arrival on Canada Day. That seems to be an imaginary conceit, however, since the holiday occurs on July 1 and Cohen encounters an awful lot of wintry landscapes along the way. Canada is cold, but it's not that cold.

While on the journey, such relevant question are explored as "Why are Canadians so nice?"; "What is it about Canada that creates so many funny people?"; and "What is Canadian food?" We don't really get satisfactory answers to these and other queries, but they provide the opportunity for plenty of amusing commentary.

"Thank God you're doing this film," Howie Mandel proclaims ironically, just before donning a toque. And if you don't know what a toque is, you're obviously not Canadian.  

Adding slight confusion to the narrative, Cohen also interviews a smattering of American celebs (Ben Stiller, Kathy Griffin), mostly because they're funny and they happen to be his friends. The Canadian subjects, including the band Rush, are helpfully identified by a tiny graphic of a Canadian flag at the corner of the screen.

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Occasional detours explore such related topics as the theft of $18 million's worth of maple syrup from a Quebec warehouse and the silliness of the long-running television series The Beachcombers, which was apparently terrible, though fondly recalled by some commentators.

"It's our Gunsmoke," Priestly comments, even while admitting that he preferred the American show.

No cliché about Canada is left unexplored, from the country's passions for donuts and hockey to its "love/hate relationship with the United States." The latter is sent up in a mildly amusing skit in which Cohen assumes the role of Canada having a therapy session.

Much of the proceedings have a loose improvisational feel, such as the scenes in which Cohen and Dave Foley trade jokes while lying together, ostensibly naked, in bed. There's no reason for it, but it's a funny sight. The same could well be said of this hardly essential but diverting doc. Or, as they'd say in Canada, a diverting doc, eh?

Production: Amaze Film + Television, GRAiNEY Pictures, Foundation Films, Entertainment One
Director/screenwriter: Robert Cohen
Producers: Colin Keith Gray, Megan Raney Aarons
Executive producers: Michael Souther, Teza Lawrence, Michael Lafetra
Director of photography: Megan Raney Aarons
Composers: Craig Northey, Scott Hard

Not rated, 89 min.