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STUDIO: Screen Media
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes
• Deleted Scenes
It’s not fuckin’ Wayne’s World.
Starring: Dave Lawrence, Paul J. Spence, Terra Hazelton, Andy Sparacino.
Written by Dave Lawrence, Paul J. Spence, Michael Dowse
Directed by Michael Dowse
Five years after Deaner (Spence) battled testicular cancer, he’s now healthy and partying hard with his buddy Terry (Lawrence) and Tron (Sparacino). Well, to be fair, he never really did change his lifestyle at all. But things change. After the guys trash their house, from which they’ve been evicted, Dean and Terry take Tron up on his offer to get them jobs as pipeliners. But these guys have little-to-no trade skills and Tron is a completely different guy when he’s not hammered and partying. Hijinx ensues.
Really, really wish I had thought of this when I was in college.
Everyone now and then an unassuming movie will jump up and surprise you. FUBAR: Balls to the Wall is just one of those movies. Barely halfway through it’s running time, I already started thinking about how awesome it was going to be to watch it over and over again, and how I couldn’t wait to be able to show it to friends. Sure, it was funny from the opening scene and never lost steam. But, more than that, it was able to capture that rare quality of cinematic experiences where you find yourself just smiling at the film even when nothing’s really happening that’s all that hilarious. You’re just enjoying yourself and these ridiculous characters on the screen that you’ve just met for the first time yet instantly adore.
Clearly I have many good things to say about this one; I highly recommend it. Hell, even my girlfriend loved it so just because it’s about a couple slacker rocker dudes from Canada doesn’t mean that only slacker dudes from wherever will get something out of it. So that’s why I’m going to get my criticism out of the way first rather than saving it for the end after I’ve sung my praises.
The whole mockumentary thing is tired. Admittedly, it’s a useful genre for low-budget flicks since it forgives the shaky camera (couldn’t afford a steadycam), bad audio (could barely afford a boom mic), lack of lighting (if you’ve got an f2.8, shoot), and general amateurness of it all (we all gotta start somewheres). But now that it’s ubiquitous – branching out into just about any genre once The Blair Witch Project mainstreamized it for modern audiences to every other sitcom that has to have confessionals now because The Office was such a success (why doesn’t The Real World get the
blame credit it deserves for this!?) – it can be more of a hindrance than a help. Never mind the narrative and screenwriting laziness that tends to come into play – at least in the feature film world – when you can just have your characters blatantly explain the plot directly to the audience by way of “interviews.” The art of hiding exposition within scenes of action can be not just done poorly like before but not even bothered with at all.
Ox took the whole “labourer: yes” thing very lightly. That is to say, not at all.
Thankfully, F:BtoW is a pretty weak mockumentary. I don’t mean that the movie’s weak, only that it barely half-asses the whole fake documentary thing, nor does it overly advertise it as such. It turns out that this is a sequel to the Canadian cult classic, Fubar, which was a full-on mockumentary with the documentarian actually involved in the film following the two rocker dudes around. (In some releases, you’ll see this called Fubar II: Balls to the Wall, although the version I saw did not.) For this go-round, director Michael Dowse and actors/co-writers Paul J. Spence and Dave Lawrence chose to keep that part of it to a minimum. While there’s the occasional character – usually Terry – talking to someone just to the left of the camera, there’s never a mention of some fake documentary being made or anything. And also thankfully, even these moments are few and far between. Most of the time you’d never realize that it even had mockumentary elements to it. In fact, everything flows into the rhythm of the movie so easily that it’s when, at odd times, Dowse adds titles to give us the names of the characters on the screen, which felt completely unnecessary since it doesn’t happen with everyone, nor is it needed. It ended up taking me out of the film in those instances, rather than draw me in further.
Darryl was knocking his karaoke rendition of “18 and Life” out of the park, so much so that his family had no idea until way later that he had had a massive brain aneurysm.
A minor gripe with an otherwise surprisingly heartfelt yet hilarious film, which owes its success as much to the well-plotted script as it does to the two main actors, Lawrence and Spence. It turns out that “improvised” does not mean “made on the fly.” While the dialogue mainly came out of the actors playing off each other, they knew where the scenes were going and made sure to hit those beats to keep the movie on track. Not always easy to pull off, but when it does, it’s really works: you end up with a fully formed story, characters with arcs, thematic tie-ins within the plot points. You know, like, a real movie — but with these dialogue scenes that have such energy and spontaneity that you can feel, because they really are spontaneous and off-the-cuff.
It helps that Lawrence and Spence are completely believable as Terry and Dean. Granted, I haven’t seen them in anything else so for all I know they are literally Terry and Dean; but, they completely embody their lovable Canadian rocker slackers with heart and honesty. They’re not making fun of these salt-of-the-earth, working-class, long-haired, trucker hat-wearing, flannel shirt-sheathed guys whose daily routine involves stopping by the strip club for beers with their friends after being practically useless all day at work. They might be saying absurd things and doing even stupider things, but it’s clear that they respect Terry and Dean and the others in this Fubar universe. One touching way they show this is in the relationship between Dean and his ex’s new husband, where they’re definitely rivals yet not in a malicious way that you see often.
At first blush, it seems like you’ve probably seen this movie before: the loveable losers who love metal but can’t actually sing or play music try keep chasing the dream long, long after they should’ve faced reality and gotten a real job to provide for their families. But they keep it fresh with interesting turns of character, with Dean facing a resurgence of cancer and hitting rock bottom, Terry dealing with the perils of excessive consumerism, and Tron masking his true depression with the party guy facade.
It almost ends up being, perhaps inadvertently, the working class version of a rags-to-riches story. Instead of a life of crime, these guys end up going legit. Instead of making a fortune in drug money, they feel rich after making a few hundred bucks a day. Instead of blowing their riches on extravagant houses and cocaine, Terry spends way outside his means now that he actually has credit cards. Instead of dodging the feds, they’re battling a resurgence of cancer. And it all ends with a revelation totally hilarious and surprisingly poignant at the same time. Exactly what you’d expect from everything that happened before it.
It’s the timeless tale of guys crawling their way out of poverty and proudly into the lower middle class. And it’s a total blast to follow along with them the entire way.
What you see when you look up the word “winners” in the dictionary.
Blu-ray looks good although it’s not exactly a movie that you need to see in high-def. The Deleted Scenes actually are pretty solid; can only imagine how many funny scenes had to hit the editing room floor. Usually there’s a reason they didn’t make the final cut, but it seems like there was quite a bit of material to choose from. But, that’s also not why you pick this movie up. Just watch it, in whichever format you can get.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Eddie took the whole “burn this mother down” to heart, even though it was his own bedroom.