Although film productions across the globe ground to a halt a few months ago due to the COVID-19 outbreak, starving us of theatrical releases for an unprecedented length of time in the process, there is thankfully an inconceivable amount of movies to choose from while we wait out the most extensive measures of this pandemic.
The most difficult part, perhaps, is choosing which ones to watch.
Some of the highest trending movies on the internet over the course of the pandemic have been a little too on the nose, with the likes of as Outbreak or Contagion maintaining top 10 positions on both Amazon and streaming services like Netflix. I even reviewed an early David Cronenberg movie recently, Rabid, which struck a little too close to home for a 1977 production.
If you are like me, then you might be more than a little exhausted by the constant reminders of the crisis we find ourselves in, longing for the good old times that now seem so long ago. If that sounds like just what you are looking for, then I have you covered with some of my favourite Canadian movies that are sure to act as the ultimate distraction while putting a smile on your face.
While we at Hollywood North Magazine normally promote movies that have various Canadian connections, this list will solely comprise of Canadian productions. As such, something as great as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which is based in Toronto and features Canadian actors but is ultimately an American, British and Japanese co-production, will be excluded, no matter how much I want it on this list.
With that out of the way, in no particular order here is my list of Feel-Good Canadian Movies to Get You Through Quarantine.
While sports can be a great divider when it comes to team loyalties (seeing a couple sporting their respective Leafs and Canadiens jerseys never gets old), division is almost always trounced by the shared love and appreciation for sports itself. The world could do with its immeasurable power of unification right about now and like many other things its suspended state is felt the world over, as reruns can only do so much.
While Michael Dowse’s Goon could never truly fill the hole left by sport, it is still one of Canada’s finest sports movies in recent years. While it does use hockey’s stereotyped penchant for fighting to deliver visceral violence, do not be fooled. Goon has a lot of heart, which is bolstered by the most sympathetic performance of Sean William Scott’s career, while a strong supporting cast that includes Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill and Liev Schreiber makes for a sports dramedy that performs as well off the ice as it does on it.
Bon Cop, Bad Cop (2006)
A classic that needs little introduction, Bon Cop, Bad Cop is Canada’s finest entry in the buddy cop genre. Not only that, but the movie is a wonderfully executed bilingual comedy thriller that takes the cultural characteristics of Anglo and French Canadians and uses them to humorous effect without devolving into shameless stereotyping. It also doesn’t hurt that the two leads, Colm Feore and Patrick Huard, the latter of whom also co-wrote the movie, showcase a natural chemistry that plays to all the right conventions of the buddy cop genre, and you can tell they are having a hell of a time doing it too. Bon Cop, Bad Cop is Canada’s answer to Lethal Weapon, and while the 2017 sequel fails to match its predecessor’s flare, its legacy is still very much intact fourteen years later.
I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (1987)
In my review of Patricia Rozema’s I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing a few years ago I called it “a triumphant masterpiece of Canadian cinema”, a statement I stand by to this very day.
While this movie will likely be the most challenging, divisive entry on my list, it is also the most relatable piece that strikes at right at the heart of the human condition with its lead character Polly, who is one of the most likeable and tragically sympathetic characters in the history of Canadian cinema.
While it features emotional highs and lows, this is ultimately an uplifting tale about a kind soul with an active imagination, and you will likely find yourself smiling time and again at Rozema’s intuitive comprehension of her characters. If you are feeling particularly isolated by the ongoing quarantine, I cannot recommend I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing enough.
The F Word (2013)
If you are a romantic comedy aficionado seeking a no frills watch, then Michael Dowse’s second entry on this list, The F Word, is the movie for you.
Starring Daniel Radcliffe and Zoey Kazan, a bird’s eye view of The F Word would make it seems like a by-the-numbers rom-com that does little to advance the genre, especially when compared to a more recent feature like The Big Sick, which Kazan starred in a few years later.
Yet I admit that is not a fair comparison to make, because while The F Word may not reinvent the wheel, it does a wonderful job of playing off the tropes that audiences have come to know and love from rom-coms, which is elevated by electric chemistry between Radcliffe and Kazan, making you root for them from start to finish.
Moreover, the cinematography paints a loving portrait of the city of Toronto, acting now as a sentimental reminder of the city’s vibrancy prior to COVID-19’s intrusion upon our lives.
Sausage Party (2016)
The final entry in my list is the only animated feature, yet it is also unquestionably the raunchiest for those seeking unfiltered side-splitting hilarity.
Co-written by Canada’s premier cinematic comedy duo, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Sausage Party features an all-star voice cast that includes Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Salma Hayek, Bill Hader and Edward Norton (who plays the brilliantly named Sammy Bagel Jr.) amongst others. The result is a recipe for top shelf comedy that uses anthropomorphic food and condiment characters to poke fun mainly at the concept of religion, though other subjects that some might consider sensitive are fair game too.
It might not necessarily define ‘feel-good cinema’ in the traditional sense, but if you, like me, are not easily offended by outlandish South Park-esque comedy with something to say, then Sausage Party is an absolute must-see.