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Film / Canadian Bacon

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"Canadians. They walk among us."

A 1995 geopolitical comedy film shot in 1993, written and directed by Michael Moore, starring John Candy, Rhea Perlman, and Alan Alda.

In the wake of the unexpected end of the Cold War, the sitting President of the United States, a milquetoast bumbler played by Alan Alda, is faced with a shrinking economy and high unemployment at home. Believing, rightly or not, that restarting the Cold War and the associated military-industrial complex at full steam will be just the right kind of economic stimulus, the President's advisors, in cahoots with a shady weapons contractor, try to get the Russians to play ball. When they say no, they decide to invent a fictitious conflict with their neighbor to the north, Canada.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Bud Boomer (Candy) of Niagara Falls, New York, has to deal with the unpleasant realities of the loss of his town's primary employer; he, his deputy, and all his friends lost their factory jobs when the Cold War ended. When the government spin doctors put out the news of the Canadian menace, he buys it completely, and sets about fortifying his town as a border defense against the coming invasion.

The film is notable as John Candy's last starring role and Michael Moore's only non-documentary feature. Plus a magnificent throwaway line, especially considering the director, about the absurdity of a situation as comparable to declaring war on terrorism. Which they wanted to do to increase the approval rating of the president. In 1995!

This film contains examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: The president faces this constantly. Being an idiot doesn't help him.
  • Artistic License – Geography:
    • It takes Boomer and his friends over 24 hours to travel from Niagara Falls to Toronto despite there only being 128 km between them.
    • The view outside Honey's Ottawa hospital room looks like a frozen wasteland with someone passing by on a dog sled. Ottawa is not like this, but is a city in a standard climate (similar to Toronto).
  • Artistic License – History:
    • Most notably Niagara Falls, New York is depicted as having just recently fallen on hard times after the closure of a defense plant. In reality, Niagara Falls, like most of the other industrial cities of the Rust Belt, had been in decline for decades as industries and manufacturing methods had become obsolete. Likewise, there were no major defense plants in Niagara Falls or really in the Great Lakes region as a whole. Post World War II, most modern weapons were being manufactured in the west and/or the Sun Belt.
    • The movie also implies that everything was great on the Canadian side. Canadian Industrial cities like Hamilton, London, and even Toronto had been hit equally as hard. Twenty years later only a handful of cities on both sides of the border (Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Toronto) have been able to make notable comebacks as they restructured their economies. Many other cities (Detroit, Cleveland, Windsor) are still reeling.
  • Author Appeal: Michael Moore is the grandson of Canadians, loves Canada and is critical of the American military. So America is satirized as a country of hair-triggered oafs, while Canada is satirized as a clean and innocent utopia.
  • Berserk Button: Don't insult Canadian beer. And definitely don't insult Canadian beer in a hockey arena.
    • A mountie engages in Police Brutality against a corporate raider.
    • Honey's is Hacker Industries.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Khabral is worried this will happen to him. They even mention the trope word for word, and the conversation Khabral, Bud, and Roy Boy have about it includes several notable examples of it. Subverted as not only does Khabral survive to the end of the film, according to the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue he moves on to becoming a NHL star for the Toronto Maple Leafs and wins the Hart Memorial Trophy (League MVP) three years in a row!
  • Brick Joke: At the hockey match, Roy boy asks Kabral why you never see black guys playing hockey, Kabral warns him that "Brothers are just starting to figure out this ice thing." The Where Are They Know Epilogue shows that Kabral himself went on to play hockey, even becoming the MVP for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
  • Canada, Eh?: Every stereotype under the sun, including them being too nice and dumb.
  • Catchphrase: When the President demands that Canada give up: "Surrender pronto, or we'll level Toronto...!"
  • Celebrity Paradox: Boomer brings up Driving Miss Daisy to Kabral as an example of when a black person has driven a white one. However, he doesn't seem to think that the police officer who pulls him over (in the same scene no less) looks a lot like that film's title character's son.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Hacker is a man who has built his fortune on War for Fun and Profit, sold a super-computer capable of hacking all of America's nuclear arsenal to the Canadians by faking that it's weather equipment, stands behind a plan to trigger a new Cold War with Canada as the Big Bad because he wants to keep the money flowing and then uses the aforementioned computer to hack America's silos, lying that it's the Canadians doing that, and tries to blackmail the President that he can stop the entire nuking of the continent to kingdom come if the President pays the price he's asking, which would bankrupt the nation several times over, and decides not to when the President balks at the price. He also makes it clear that the reason he does this is not just because of the money, but because he hates the President that much.
  • Courteous Canadian: The bulk of the film is contrasting a satirical take on America with a satirical take on Canada. While America is full of easily manipulated, hair-triggered oafs, Canada is uniformly clean, friendly and childishly innocent.
    Gus: Canadians are always thinking up a lot of ways to ruin our lives. The metric system, for the love of God! Celsius! Neil Young!
  • Creator Cameo: Michael Moore appears as a member of an anti-Canadian mob.
    It's time we put America back in North America! GOD BLESS BUD BOOMER!!!
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Two of the guys in Canadian prison were arrested for putting leaded gasoline into an unleaded tank, and being in too many bad moods.
  • Do Wrong, Right: A Canadian cop pulls the main characters—who are driving a van covered with anti-Canadian slogans—over, then criticizes them for not writing them in both English and French. The anti-Canadian slogans are even translated with grammar and spelling mistakes.
  • Defcon 5: Defcon 4 is the level taken when nuclear missiles are ready to launch.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • General Panzer in the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue shot himself when he realized Hogan's Heroes was entirely fictional.
    • Roy Boy (and apparently many others) after they were laid off from Hacker's defense plant. Roy Boy seems to snap out of it when Boomer and Honey help him.
  • Eagleland: This movie mocks everything regarding Patriotic Fervor with a vengeance. Every single American character is running around Flavor 2, but they are quite convinced they're Flavor 1.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Smiley is willing to start a cold war, but draws the line at starting a nuclear war.
  • Excuse Me, Coming Through! : Hilariously subverted during a chase scene, when (Canadian) bystanders say "I'm sorry" and "Excuse me" as they're being knocked out of the way.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: As one target for his ginned-up war, the president suggests international terrorism. His advisors scoff at the idea.
  • Invaded States of America: The Attack of the Political Ad campaign meant to ignite the Patriotic Fervor necessary for the American people to allow a full-on war with Canada implies that every single Canadian that has ever come to America, from the most famous of actors to the most harmless of bystanders, is secretly some kind of infiltrator.
  • Invisible President: Ultimately averted, but Canadian Prime Minister Clark MacDonald is only ever present in phone conversations with the president, save for one shot of his face at the end.
  • Karma Houdini: R.J. Hacker dies but his dead body becomes a tourist attraction for the Republican Party.
    • For all the crimes Boomer and his friends commit once they cross into Canada, the only karma that they face is having to pay a small fine for not having the graffiti on their (stolen) police truck in French and English. Granted, the President had sent the Omega Force to capture Boomer and friends, but since they never caught up with them, the point still stands.
  • Make the Bear Angry Again: Attempted at the very beginning of the film, to keep the Military-Industrial Complex reaping in Cold War-level profits. It is unsuccessful.
  • Most Common Card Game: The Mountie plays it with his prisoners.
  • Neat Freak: In Canada, littering is punishable by a $1 million (Canadian) fine. A Canadian policeman charges the American guys $1,000 Canadian, though this only translated to $10 American due to the weak Canadian dollar.
  • No Name Given: The president is never named.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Subverted by the Omega Force. One guy stubs his toe and is shot by his comrades as a result.
    • Played straight, however, when our heroes take off for America after doing their dirty work—and mistakenly leave Honey behind.
      Roy Boy: We left a man behind! Boomer left a man behind!
      Khabral: The Marines never leave a man behind!
      Roy Boy: Chuck Norris never left a man behind!
      Khabral: Wesley Snipes never leaves a man behind!
      Roy Boy: She's all alone, behind enemy lines.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: The Canadians are consistently depicted as being friendly and good-natured throughout the movie, to the point of being seemingly oblivious to America's hatred of them. Even when they catch someone breaking the law, their law enforcement officers only ever get kind of stern at worst. The only time they get angry is when one of the characters remarks that their beer sucks. They also express extreme anger at corporate raiding.
  • One-Track-Minded Artist: An anti-Canadian report displays the CN Tower, causing Officer Honey to become obsessed with it. When Kabral visits her, she's created several recreations of it.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: "President Buffoon" is being too kind to Alan Alda's President.
  • Police Are Useless: The Mounties don't come out of this movie looking good:
    • The Mounties who confront Boomer's gang dumping garbage in the park get distracted when one of them uses a preposition at the end of a sentence.
    • The Mountie played by Steven Wright doesn't think to arrest Boomer's gang when they intimidate with weapon, gives them information about where to find Honey, and even corrects their mistake. Not to mention he is later seen playing cards with his prisoners (albeit ones who were arrested for silly reasons).
    • The Mountie played by Dan Aykroyd is more concerned that the anti-Canadian graffiti on Boomer's truck is not also written in French than the fact that Americans are driving a stolen police truck.
    • The best the Mounties can do when Honey has taken the CN tower with a large machine gun is to politely ask her to come down (which only annoys her more).
    • On the American side, Boomer and Honey not only don't try to prevent suicides into Niagara Falls, they actively encourage it so that they can collect a bigger reward.
    • The Military Police rightly arrest Smiley for murdering Hacker, but ignore him when he says he has the codes to prevent a nuclear holocaust.
  • Serious Business: Canadian beer is taken very seriously in Canada. If you insult it, you will cause a riot.
  • Silly Reason for War: With Canada, to keep the military-industrial complex happy. It gets sillier when Canada is just too nice to care about the whole "war" thing. Topped off when the only moment the Canadians show outright hostility is when Bud and his friends disparage their beer.
  • Something Something Leonard Bernstein: Bud, Roy Boy, and Kabral on the road, singing the title of "Born in the USA" . . . and not much else. They also attempt "Oklahoma."
  • Spanner in the Works: Honey goes berserk when she sees the Hacker Industries brand on the side of the "Hellstorm" computer and shoots it up with an assault rifle, preventing a nuclear apocalypse accidentally.
  • Straw Character: Boomer and Honey are stereotypical boorish blue-collar conservatives. General Panzer is a stereotypical right-wing warmonger. The President is a stereotypical spineless liberal weenie.
  • Stupid Evil: R.J. Hacker hacks into America's nuclear launch network, uses it to start a launch sequence for America's nuclear missiles, blames Canada for doing it, and then offers an anti-hacking countermeasure for an extortionate amount of money. When the President balks, he walks off, knowing full well that calling his bluff will lead to The End of the World as We Know It and thus render Hacker's fortunes worthless.
  • Suicide Dare: The US city of Niagara pays its cops extra for cleaning up suicides. This led to unfortunate consequences...
  • Superweapon Surprise: An accidental example. Hacker sells his "Hellstorm" computer system (which can control the entirety of the United States' nuclear arsenal) to Canada as "weather equipment" and later uses it to hack said nuclear arsenal as a False Flag Operation, and the President and the rest of his Warhawk staff is horrified at the discovery that Canada is about to start World War Three and blow them to kingdom come.
  • That Came Out Wrong: The president, at the now out-of-business munitions factory in Niagara Falls: "It's time to turn off the war machine and turn on our children."
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The President's motorcade drives past Roy Boy, who has tied himself up and is clearly in distress, without anyone even stopping.
  • War for Fun and Profit: Hacker wants profit. General Panzer wants fun.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Averted with most of the cast whose fates are given in a "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, but played straight with Roy Boy whose whereabouts are unknown according to the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue:
    The body of R.J. Hacker can be viewed daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Republican National Headquarters.
  • Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: Without the Russians to blame everything on, the president's approval ratings are in the toilet. To rectify this (and return profitability to Hacker's weapons company), they plan to start a new one.
  • Weaponized Landmark: By means of lying that the equipment is meant for climate measurement, R.J. Hacker manages to install the "Hellstorm" computer (which would trigger the launch of every nuclear silo in America) on the top of Toronto's CN Tower.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Everyone thinks they are on some kind of late Cold War "Occupiers Out of Our Country" saga, boosted by In-Universe propaganda (when they accidentally leave Honey behind, they even point out that every other film action hero ever does No One Gets Left Behind). Hacker and Smiley manipulate them all for their own means.