DVD Review: Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day
Ah, the Trailer Park Boys. The beloved Canadian sitcom (which was doing the faux-documentary thing before The Office) ran from 2001 to 2008 (including two TV specials), spawning two feature films, Countdown to Liquor Day being the latter, as well as the official, final, no-really-we-mean-it-this-time end of the Trailer Park Boys. Countdown to Liquor Day picks up as the boys are getting out of jail, two years after being busted at the end of the hour-long 2008 special. Would-be criminal mastermind Julian (John Paul Tremblay) swears he’s going straight for real this time, while the comically stupid Ricky (Robb Wells) tells the parole board up front that he’s planning to go back do growing pot (“I could tell you guys whatever you want to hear, or I can be honest. I’m gonna grow dope, ‘cause that’s what I’m good at. I grow the best dope of anybody I’ve ever met.”), while the bespectacled Bubbles (Mike Smith) just wants to get back to his shed and his kitties. But once they get out, the Boys realize their nemesis, Trailer Park Supervisor Jim Lahey, has transformed their beloved Sunnyvale Trailer Park into a more upscale community. (He also hasn’t had a drink in two years, but the title of the movie gives you a hint as to how that works out.)
Countdown to Liquor Day is clearly meant to the wrap up the series and give the beloved characters a proper send-off. There’s almost a sadness to the movie, a sense that the viewer (as well as the cast and crew) are really saying goodbye to the characters. Trailer Park Boys has never shied away from showing how important the Boys’ family unit is to each of them, but this time it feels like every character is more willing to come out and say it (there’s a particularly touching scene where the usually too-cool Julian tells Bubbles that he loves him. It’s fairly clear through the run of the show that Julian would do anything for his friends, but to actually have him just say it to Bubbles the way he does is oddly affecting if you’re a fan). Or seeing how furious Ricky (easily the most misanthropic of the Boys, but also somehow the most loveable) gets when he learns that Mr. Lahey and his faithful sidekick/lover Randy (whose huge gut graces the DVD cover, and remains a hilarious visual gag on its own) were responsible for shaving a chunk out of Bubbles’ hair. As much as the scene where Ricky returns the favor to Randy is hilarious (it’s really one of the funniest sequences in the movie), it’s also very clear that Ricky is avenging his friend’s humiliation. There’s even a scene where Ricky breaks down and cries, which is about the last thing I ever expected to happen (it also leads to one of the best parts of the movie, Julian’s “Grade 12 is inside of you” speech).
There’s a tangible feeling throughout the film that this is it, the final Trailer Park Boys story. It’s sort of like Mike Clattenburg (who co-wrote and directed every single episode of the show, as well as all the movies, which is actually a pretty incredible achievement) and co.’s third kick at the can – the final episode of the proper show felt like the finale, as did the subsequent one-hour special, Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys (which is unfortunately still unavailable on DVD). The extended ending of the Trailer Park Boys franchise is a little like the end of the Lord of the Rings movies, but as with the 12-hour fantasy epic, I feel like TPB has earned the right to take its time wrapping everything up.
As much as I’m a fan of the show (read my review of the whole series here), I actually found I didn’t really laugh very much watching Countdown to Liquor Day. Which isn’t really a knock; the movie is very funny, but I found the comedy to be more tonal and character-based rather than laugh-out-loud hilarious (though the movie does have plenty of moments like that as well). I enjoyed Countdown to Liquor Day purely because I got to spend time with these characters again (including my personal fave, the painfully white would-be rapper J-Roc, who steals every scene he’s in and, next to Bubbles, is probably the smartest character on the show…which is sort of sad), and I’m happy to say the movie works very well as a capper to the Trailer Park Boys.
My favorite aspect of Countdown to Liquor Day is sort of subtle (but not really; it’s actually fairly important to the plot), and it marks a definite change in the Trailer Park Boys universe. As in all sitcoms, there’s a status quo to TPB to which things invariably return at the end of if not every episode, every story arc: Ricky grows dope and is a screw-up, Bubbles lives in his shed with his precious kitties, Mr. Lahey’s a drunken mess, and Julian is an ostensible small-time criminal mastermind who always has a plan and is generally looked up to by everyone in Sunnyvale. But Countdown to Liquor Day begins by flipping one very important part of that premise: now, after years of ridiculous failures that have landed himself and his buddies in jail numerous times, just about everyone in Sunnyvale views Julian as a loser. It’s remarkable how much this changes the dynamics of the characters, as now virtually nobody in Sunnyvale has any time for Julian or his latest scheme (which is admittedly probably his dumbest plan yet), whereas before, practically everyone in the park would be lining up to work for him. Countdown to Liquor Day has reality beginning to seep into Sunnyvale.
This is definitely more than an hour-and-a-half episode of the show; Clattenburg adds enough small touches to Countdown to Liquor Day (shooting in lots of different locations, the use of music cues like “I Fall to Pieces” when Randy breaks up with Mr. Lahey, a romantic subplot for Bubbles) that it feels like a larger-scale TPB story. The climactic bank heist/shootout/car chase is easily the most elaborate setpiece in Trailer Park Boys history. (Also, it has Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson in a cameo as a cross-dressing undercover cop.)
More than anything, Countdown to Liquor Day feels like a victory lap for fans (and I mean this in the best possible way). As much as you don’t really need to have seen the show or previous movie to appreciate the comedy (context isn’t really that important to the gag at the beginning that sees Ricky and Julian walking out of jail, sneaking off the prison bus and immediately stealing a corrections van and robbing a liquor store after swearing to the parole board they’re going straight), most of the humor comes from familiarity with the characters and their relationships with each other. If this is your first introduction to the Trailer Park Boys, most of it will probably be lost on you. But if you’re not a fan and any of this sounds interesting to you, I highly recommend you seek out the show. It’s fantastic.
All the Trailer Park Boys DVDs have lots of extras, and Countdown to Liquor Day is no different. There’s great a collection of deleted scenes, as well as an alternate ending that I daresay is actually better and funnier than the one in the finished film. There’s also a decent-sized making-of documentary and featurettes on the car chase and Randy’s haircut.
The only real disappointment is the commentary track. In previous Trailer Park Boys DVDs, Clattenburg and/or the cast (sometimes in character, sometimes not) almost always provide commentary, but here they elect to let some fans from a TPB fan forum provide commentary. I can understand if after hours and hours of commentaries, Clattenburg feels he has nothing more to say about the franchise, but the resulting track amounts to little more than boring people laughing at and pointing out jokes. It’s really, really bad, and not interesting at all.
Overall though, Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day is a very solid DVD for a hilarious movie that caps off one of the best – and most important – shows in Canadian television history.
Labels: Canadian cinema, comedy, DVD review, Mockumentary