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Arts & Culture

Trailer Park Boys

Trailer Park Boys grow out of a short film made by Mike Clattenburg that featured the characters of Julian and Ricky. Then came a no-budget 1999 mockumentary that chronicled the lives of these likable losers who always had some big scheme to make money. Clattenburg was then approached to create a series out of that film and so Trailer Park Boys the series was born. Now in its seventh season, the show has a strong following in Canada and a cult following here in the U.S. The second Trailer Park Boys movie was actually made in 2006 and was a top grosser in Canada, but I guess it took two years for a distributor to decide to release it here in the U.S.

More residents of Sunnyvale Trailer Park (Screen Media)

The new movie has less of a mockumentary feel, although occasional interviews with the characters are inserted. For those, like myself, who might be unfamiliar with the characters, let me introduce you to the main players. Julian (John Paul Tremblay), is the leader (a dubious distinction) of a group of trailer park friends. He's a career criminal but only in the sense that he keeps coming up with illegal schemes not because he actually has made a successful career out of crime. Julian is never seen without a rum and coke firmly in hand. Ricky (Robb Wells) is Julian's best friend, and he lives in his car at the trailer park because his girlfriend Lucy (Lucy Decoutere) has kicked him out of the trailer. Ricky used to have a good thing going growing and selling pot, but he's sort of slacked off on that career. But he loves Lucy and his illegitimate daughter Trinity, and will do anything to keep them all together. Both he and Julian have been in and out of prison since they were kids. Rounding out the gang, are Bubbles (Mike Smith), the cat-loving heart and soul of the Sunnyvale trailer park, and the inseparable and inept team of Cory and Trevor (Cory Bowles and Michael Jackson -- no not THAT Michael Jackson).


In this feature film outing, Ricky is trying to get his life back on track by re-establishing his pot growing business, and Julian has plans to rob ATMs. Along the way, Julian and Ricky end up in jail again. Ricky starts a ball hockey league in prison while Julian gets inspired to steal change as his next big caper. That's right change, you know coins. Apparently, he's told, stealing change isn't a crime or at least not one the cops are interested in. But Ricky wants to pull off "the big dirty," a crime that will set them up for life. As you might expect, nothing goes as plans.

John Paul Tremblay, Mike Smith and Robb Wells in Trailer Park Boys: The Movie (Screen Media)

Trailer Park Boys proves immensely enjoyable and unabashedly stupid. The success of the film is the comic consistency of the characters and the dedication of the actors to bring them vividly to life. This, like Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle , is what I refer to as a pot comedy. What that means is that the characters smoke pot and the style of comedy reflects that. So the comedy is mostly good-natured and not mean-spirited, and the characters are likable. The comedy is not based on the charactres demeaning each other or being cruel to each other. The main trio may be poor and dumb but the film never makes them the butt of the joke or treats them with disrespect.

That attitude also comes through in the characters themselves. Take the botched ATM robbery. Ricky gets pissed that Cory and Trevor have just screwed up, but the worst punishment Ricky can come up with is that he won't hang out with them any more. But even this drastic decree is recinded when Julian and Bubbles point out that Ricky is being too mean to the boys. So everyone apologizes and makes up with each other. There's also a certain slacker mentality that permeates the film. When Ricky's in prison, he has a good time. He recommends that if Julian would just "play hockey and smoke dope" instead of lifting weights and drinking vodka, he'd be happy too. In a later scene back at the trailer park, Ricky drops off his girlfriend and he kindly informs her that he's going out to get "f-cked up" and will call her about noon or one. If the characters were doing cocaine, I doubt the comedy would be so appealingly goofy.


Writer-director Clattenburg and writer-actor Rob Wells also have fun poking fun at Hollywood action conventions. A high speed chase grinds to a halt when Ricky has to take a piss. Then they spoof the Ocean's 11 style heist by making the crime involve stealing a bunch of coins. Plus there's a distinct sense of Canadian humor not only in terms of the style of comedy but also in terms of what elements get put to use in the film. Ricky doesn't want to leave prison because he wants to play in the hockey game with the guards. When an annoying guard cuts his sentence short in order to remove him from the prison tourney, Ricky exclaims "I have a right to be in jail." Once out of jail, he does everything he can to get thrown back into prison so he can make the final game. There's also the way a hockey stick can be used for everything from propping open car trunks to a "clearing stick" to clear the roof of a car like Stanley Kowalski cleared tables in A Streetcar Named Desire. Hockey just has a way of permeating everyday life in Canada.

The fact that this film -- which promotes drug use and crime in a good natured fashion -- received government funding in Canada just makes the film even funnier. It adds a layer of irony for those of us in the U.S who can only imagine the uproar that would occur if government arts funding went into a friendly comedy about pot-smoking criminals with loose morals. It's as if the very act of making the film was a subversive act of comedy.

Trailer Park Boys: The Movie (rated R for pervasive language, sexual content/nudity and drug content) has a low budget student film look that only adds to its comic style. Rob Wells, in both his acting and his comic approach, is reminiscent of Ricky Gervais and the British show The Office , but Wells' comedy avoids the discomfort of office politics in favor of the sweeter, sillier goings-on of a trailer park crowd. All I can say is I'm glad I had a friend that introduced me to the Trailer Park Boys. The film aims low but it keeps hitting its mark with hilarious accuracy. The bottom line for a comedy is, does it make you laugh? This one does. I have now become a fan of Julian, Ricky and Bubbles. And I hear that in the latest seventh season (which promises "More episodes, fewer brain cells.") Ricky faces an economic crisis when he ends up with loads of pot but finds the price has dropped because of looser marijuana laws in Canada.

If you like Trailer Park Boys or just want more info beyond the official Showcase site check out fan sites (with extensive episode guide), (which includes a "Rate my Kitties" section) and of course the Trailer Park Boys Store .

Companion viewing: Les Boys, Kids in the Hall, The Big Lebowski, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, South Park ( Blame Canada episode), The Office (British version)