Toronto 2010: The 'Canadian heroes' of 'Fubar II'
Introducing "Fubar II" at the Ryerson Theatre on Thursday, Toronto International Film Festival programmer Colin Geddes declared it a historic night: The event marked the first time a Canadian movie had opened the Midnight Madness section. When actors/co-writers Dave Lawrence and Paul Spence took the stage in costume as their characters from the film -- a pair of lovably hapless headbangers named Terry and Dean -- the crowd, already at the fever pitch of a rock concert, roared to its feet. "Canadian heroes!" declared Geddes.
The evening had gotten off to quite a start as the cast and filmmakers made an entrance outside the theater that seemed intended to outdo Sacha Baron Cohen's notorious cart-pulled-by-women for "Borat" a few years ago. Team Fubar arrived with a monster truck that was pulling a flatbed carrying a heavy metal band called Monster Truck. There was also a marching-band leader, a bagpiper, go-go dancers and, for good measure, a cowboy. Spence leaped from the truck, crowd-surfing atop the fans waiting to get into the movie.
As if to amp up the boisterous feeling in the auditorium, Geddes programmed a short film, called "The Legend of Beaver Dam," as something of an opening act. The crowd was at first hooting and shouting because they did not want to wait for the main feature, but the short -- directed by Jerome Sable as a lively mix of slasher film, summer-camp comedy and rock opera -- won the room over.
"Fubar II" did not disappoint. The first "Fubar" was released in 2002, and judging by the manic crowd at the Ryerson, has picked up a considerable Canadian cult following in the years since. "Fubar II" picks up five years after the first film, and Terry and Dean are still adrift in a world of laziness and aimless partying. Though Dean is now cancer-free -- the first film dealt with his bout with testicular cancer -- he hasn't much changed his ways. The pair head to work in the oil fields of Northern Alberta after their friend Tron (Andrew Sparacino) tells them he can get them jobs.
Living up to the film's title (a military acronym for when things go very wrong), a workman's comp scam leads Dean to a doctor's office, and it is discovered his cancer has returned. As the film takes an unexpectedly dark turn, Dean and Tron form a suicide pact, though both face down their despondency following an especially transformational Christmas.
The film celebrates friendship and acknowledges the modern, unconventional family. It also could revive nostalgia for the legacy of '70s rock band Boston through its evocative use of the song "More Than a Feeling" as an exultation of joy and triumph.
Following the film, the cast and director/co-writer Michael Dowse took the stage for a Q&A session. Lawrence jumped down to hand the first questioner a microphone. He then spent the rest of the Q&A running around the auditorium, at times leaping over seats and people to get to the next questioner. "If I can answer it, I'll partake," he said at one point after realizing he hadn't actually been answering any questions.
On Friday morning, looking a bit bleary but surprisingly coherent after a late night, Spence, Lawrence and Dowse sat shoulder-to-shoulder on a hotel couch for an interview. Spence and Lawrence were in costume as Dean and Terry.
The team worked from a 30-40 page treatment in creating the film, but all the dialogue was improvised. Dowse, along with editor Reginald Harkema, has a real feel for blending the pair's outlandish exploits alongside more emotionally true moments. When Terry first slow-dances with his soon-to-be girlfriend (Terra Hazelton), there is a startling poignancy in the inter-cutting of glances between Dean and Terry.
"The improvisation lends itself to that," said Lawrence. "When you're improvising, you have to live out the emotions because you're making them up on the spot. The emotions come out naturally because you haven't necessarily planned them. When you're improvising it kind of has to be true. You're making it up as it comes out."
"Comedy is based on honesty," said Dowse. "It has to be honest and funny. I also think the funnier it is, the more leeway it gives you to go a little darker emotionally. You kind of bought that time, by making them laugh, the audience is ready to have a bit of topography to the story line."
The film opens in Canada on Oct. 1 and is looking for U.S. distribution. Alongside the pantheon of doofus duos like Wayne and Garth, Bill and Ted, and Bob and Doug, one can now without a doubt add Terry and Dean.
-- Mark Olsen
Photo from "Fubar II" of Dave Lawrence and Paul Spence courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival