Canada is known for its comedy teams. I grew up watching the Wayne and Shuster specials on television. Bob and Doug MacKenzie, with their own movie and hit song, was the hoser offshoot from the brilliant SCTV show. The Kids In the Hall were the hip, brainy alternative to The Royal Canadian Air Farce who continue to amuse despite having a combined age of nearly 1000 years. The rudest and crudest addition to this list is Ricky, Julian and Bubbles, The Trailer Park Boys.
They are the residents of Dartmouth’s Sunnyvale Trailer Park and the stars of the now defunct television show that chronicled their lives, loves and jail terms. For six seasons they cussed, drank and smoked their way into the collective consciousness of Canadians who made them cult heroes. Their 2006 movie should have been the icing on the TPB’s cake; a nice send-off to the troublesome trio as they headed off for the big trailer park in the sky.
Instead they’re back for another kick at the can with “TPB: Countdown to Liquor Day,” a mostly unfunny continuation of their story that picks up where “Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys,” the final TPB television special that ended the series, left off. Ricky, Julian and Bubbles are just out of jail, looking forward to a bright future, but once again their nemesis Jim Lahey (John Dunsworth) gets in their way. In their absence he’s torn down the old trailer park, replacing it with a brand-spanking-new development. The only problem is he has to run sewer lines under Julian’s property, and Julian doesn’t want to sell.
Their silver-screen adventures don’t differ too much from the action on the television show. Director and co-writer Mike Clattenberg has decided against tarting-up the movie, avoiding guest stars or really slick production value. Its vintage TPB except it’s not nearly as funny as the TV show. All the puzzle pieces are intact—Ricky, the ringleader, still lives in his car and spends his days planning the the ultimate get rich quick scheme; his pals, the coke-bottle-bottom glasses wearing Bubbles and Julian, with his ever-present rum-and-coke respectively, are there for support, even if it means getting thrown in jail—but the laughs are fewer and further between.
But despite the bad language and even worse behavior there is a certain sweetness to the characters. Underneath his pompadour that would make Elvis envious, Ricky is essentially a decent guy who wants what everybody wants, an April Wine Great Hits 8-track, good friends, love and a warm place to pee. Ditto the other guys.
As Julian once said, “If you strip away the guns and the dope [the Trailer Park Boys] are about family.” And that, I think, is the appeal of TPB. Like many great sitcom characters before them, they inhabit a very specific world and have a strong sense of themselves and their surroundings. Just as Fred Sandford loved his junkyard and Jack Tripper was happy to work at the Regal Beagle, Ricky, Julian and Bubbles are proud to live in the trailer park, to be part of that community of people. It is their home and they don’t aspire to moving on up to the east side or anywhere else. It’s a nice touch that amid the hoser-humor there is a real sense that these guys belong together, no matter how dysfunctional their thrown-together family may be.
I just wish it was funnier.