TORONTO (CP) _ The boys are back. For Ricky, Julian and Bubbles, it’s out of jail and straight into a big-screen movie version of the sitcom series that has been a rarity in Canadian television: a bona fide audience hit for six seasons now.
Before season 7 begins on Showcase next spring, "Trailer Park Boys: The Movie" hits theatres across Canada this Friday. But with a modest $5 million budget, it has the same low-rent look as the small-screen version. No big marquee names. No big car crashes or things blowing up. So the question for director, writer and co-creator Mike Clattenburg is: will fans pay to see something they get each week on the small screen for free (cable fees notwithstanding)?
"It’s a cinematic experience," Clattenburg insists, adding there’s a certain charm to the series’ cheap video quality that fans will still want to see writ large. He even eschewed the usual 35mm and opted to film on grainier 16mm.
He notes that low-rent Canadian screen classic from 1970, Don Shebib’s Goin’ Down the Road, was shot in a similar social realist style. Come to think of it, there are other similarities in its story of a pair of Cape Breton roustabouts who decide to drive to Toronto in their beat-up Chevy looking for a better life.
"We didn’t want to spend hours lighting stuff. . .we consciously didn’t want to get too glamorous," Clattenburg adds. "(But still it’s) very worthy of 10 Canadian dollars!"
When asked if a comparison can be made, too, to those two Canadian hosers from the early 1980s, the McKenzie brothers (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas) of SCTV fame, Clattenburg says that was not a conscious decision. If any of Bob and Doug’s DNA exists in Ricky, Julian and Bubbles, it is far from intentional.
"Bob and Doug were born out of those guys hanging out and having fun and trying to make each other laugh," he says. "I think we are born of the same thing, a group of friends who are very serious about filmmaking but are very serious about exploring the depths of foolishness as well."
In the film script, the boys are let out of jail and immediately plan The Big Dirty: a major heist that will net them enough money to live high the rest of their lives. Alas, coming from the shallow end of their respective family gene pools, they decide the clever thing would be to make a big haul of change since coin, unlike paper money, isn’t traceable by the law.
After knocking over some parking metres with little payoff, they spot a gigantic plastic bowl of coins in a movie-theatre lobby … one of those contests where the winner guesses the correct amount of money therein. It’s not hard to predict what disaster awaits them. Clattenburg insists the Sunnyvale trailer park trio have not generated complaints from Maritime locals that this represents an insulting stereotype.
"It was in season 2, there was an elderly lady who came out of her trailer when we had cars on fire and (stuff) was wrecked everywhere, and she said ‘You are trying to make us look like Yankee trash!"’
But he says that’s about it, because most people know it’s not an accurate portrayal of anything.
"It’s absurd. Was Monty Python an accurate representation of the English? Is "The Sopranos" an accurate representation of Italian-American life? No.
"It’s subjective. It’s your sense of humour and it works for some and it doesn’t work for others and that’s completely cool."
While strictly a Canadian property so far, Clattenburg says buzz has already been generated in Hollywood about "Trailer Park Boys", partially because of Canadian-born uber-producer Ivan Reitman’s participation in the film’s making. Fans have also been downloading series episodes and BBC America aired three seasons but with much of the show’s considerable profanity excised. Clattenburg says the specialty channel wanted to broadcast them uncut but had to relent due to the industry chill that descended in the wake of the infamous Janet Jackson nipplegate incident during the 2004 Super Bowl telecast. He concedes the boys’ liberal use of the f-word can be offputting to some but laughs at objections to much of the other so-called profanity which, he says, is often harmless banter.
"There’s cocknuckles and dicklock. I mean, what does that mean? That means nothing. You’re just playing with the sound of the words and alliteration and all those things."
The TPB movie, incidentally, is being released theatrically on the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, a time when the big studios usually put their Academy Award contenders out there. Any such hopes for the boys?
"I’m absolutely sure we’re probably going to get eight to 10 Oscar nominations," deadpans Clattenburg. "If it doesn’t, I will be shocked!"