Before watching the movie:
From the synopsis, I was expecting stereotypes and satire even before I read further and found that this is a rare (I think) non-documentary from Michael Moore. So maybe it will be like An American Carol, only on the other side of the political spectrum. Regardless, I expect satirical stereotypes of both Americans and Canadians.
This is a satire of the first Gulf War, so I wonder if I’ll see anything relevant to the second. I also wonder if this film can top South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut for silliest war with Canada.
After watching the movie:
A small American town near Niagara Falls lands in hard times when their chief industry, a defense plant, goes out of business and lays off all their workers, since the Cold War is over and there is no more reason to build weapons. The plunging economy corresponds to the President’s plunging ratings. Desperate to get a second term, he casts about for a new Cold War. One of his aides cooks up a campaign of mistrust for Canada, which gets the hicks in the former defense town all riled up, taking matters into their own hands, and warming the new cold war more than anyone wanted.
Michael Moore was relatively mellow back then, apparently. There is at least one and possibly another joke that is actually critical about Canada. Most of the jokes are about how nice/clean/boring the place is, but there is one point where the Canadian healthcare system’s flaws are the butt of the joke, and another place where government-enforced bilingualism is used for a laugh.
I really enjoyed Alan Alda’s President, and would have liked to see more of him. I’m not sure if he was supposed to remind the audience of George (H.W.) Bush or was just looking like himself. Although the political story and the rogue Americans story are closely linked and well-balanced from a story perspective, I would have rather had one or the other, and prefer the politician’s antics to the hicks. But it’s one of John Candy’s last roles (very last, by release date), so some respect is due.
One of the greatest points I realized from this movie is that fifty years of tension kept the Russians’ minds off their problems as much as the Americans here realize it did for their people. I don’t know how accurate it is to say that having a war on keeps people totally distracted from their local problems, since it’s not doing anything for us right now and there’s little to study from the Cold War era that isn’t the Cold War, so I’m willing to believe that argument only stands on the power of a historical filter. There’s a joke in the film that’s better now than it was then, about the possibility of going to war against terrorism.
I had a lot of fun with this movie. Parts of it reminded me of The Mouse That Roared, WarGames, and Monty Python’s The Life of Brian. (And of course the obvious parody of Close Encounters) I’d watch it again, and definitely consider it the best movie about a war with Canada that I’ve seen.
Watch this movie: for the political farce and warning
Don’t watch this movie: for truly scathing social commentary