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copper's camera Jason Jones and mike beaver film by Warren Sonoda

Guy Porter

2 out of 4 stars


Coopers' Camera

  • Directed by Warren P. Sonoda
  • Written by Mike Beaver and Jason Jones
  • Starring Jason Jones, Samantha Bee, Mike Beaver, Peter Keleghan, Jayne Eastwood and Dave Foley
  • Classification: 14A

How Canadian is Coopers' Camera ? Jayne Eastwood, who had a ovely little role in the great Canadian movie, Goin'Down the Road , is in it. Dave Foley, a cherished Kids in the Hall alum, shows up too. The stars are Samantha Bee and Jason Jones, the Canadian correspondents from The Daily Show . And the writers and director hail from Toronto and Hamilton. Heck, one of the writers is named Beaver.

So, theoretically, we should be all riled up that, as a sop to the marketplace, the film is set in northern New York.

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But let the Americans have it. There is no glory here. Comedies should be unafraid and without sentiment. Still, an anti-family Christmas story that asks its audience to hold a smirk for 90 minutes is probably going to far.

The film, a mockumentary that's heavy on the mock, is the story of Gord and Nancy Cooper and their extended, entirely unattractive family. Gord (Jones) is a Homer Simpson blowhard who can only have sex with department-store mannequins. Nance (Bee) is a housewife mired in the bad-hair 1980s. She's also four months pregnant. How'd that happen? The most likely sperm donor is Gord's brother, Tim (Peter Keleghan), a travel agent who always goes too far.

And that's not the film's only bit of inter-familial sexual intrigue. The Coopers' boy, 11-year-old Teddy, a budding Larry Flynt, throws dollar bills at his teenage stripper cousin Heather.

Ho, ho, ho, it's beginning to look a lot like Xmas.

It's Christmas 1985, to be exact. The Coopers' big family gift is a $2,000, second-hand VHS video camera. Budget-conscious Nancy is horrified. Little Teddy is intrigued. When Gord hears that brother Tim is coming for dinner, he hits the sauce. Uncles and aunts show up, some loaded down with gifts, others just loaded. The turkey hits the microwave just as Gord, past drunk, collapses on a downstairs couch. And if Santa wants to see mommy kissing someone, he should look for her in the washroom with Uncle Tim.

Of course, little Teddy captures all of this on the family's newest, most expensive plaything. His filmic wanderings become the mockument that is Coopers' Camera .

The movie is not without laughs. A booze-fuelled toboggan ride is a good comic idea merrily achieved. And whoever combed the aisles of thrift shops in search of unabashed 1980s fashion did a superb job recreating the swirl-coloured, shoulder-pad look of the era.

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Coopers' Camera also boasts one sharp performance. Keleghan ( The Newsroom ) captures leisurewear lizard Uncle Tim with relaxed ease. He's appalling fun. Others weigh more heavily on our nerves. Jones plays Gord with evident contempt. In fact, the movie itself is contemptuous of the entire family.

Despite the savagery, there is a winning tenderness at the heart of mockumentaries like Spinal Tap and the BBC series The Office . The creators care for their creations. The creators of Coopers' Camera , however, are interested in their characters in the same way that skeet shooters are interested in clay pigeons.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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