For Canada’s most beloved miscreants, the screen is almost as inevitable as prison time. The stars of Trailer Park Boys have eight TV seasons under their over-taxed belts, and a ninth is coming this fall on Netflix. They have also made three feature-length films, and the just-released latest of those – Don’t Legalize It – adds to their mockumentary oeuvre.
Ripping oneself off so many times, however, can be another kind of recidivism, another danger to society.
Luckily for TPB diehards and even newbies to this cult classic, the coast is clear. Since we last saw them five year ago in the film Countdown to Liquor Day, Ricky (Robb Wells) and the boys have put on some weight. Not the kind that comes from microwaved chicken fingers or undercooked Kraft Dinner. No, we’re talking gravity, man. In Don’t Legalize It, our heroes of the lumpen proletariat confront great themes of life: mortality, personal meaning, and naturally, the question of legalizing marijuana. (“Dope,” as Ricky says in one of his more eloquent soliloquies, “is a part of us.”) While the jokes don’t always hit their targets, the deeper thinking (by the boys’ standards) actually becomes this movie. In its own jack-assian way, this film almost verges on poignancy.
The TPB series and films, created by Mike Clattenburg, are not revered for their plots: They’re as shaggy as Randy’s perennially exposed belly. That’s the charm, defenders may say, but it gets as stale as pot left too long in the freezer. It isn’t until the gang hits the road with some joints and pepperoni sticks (with their nemesis Lahey in hot pursuit) that this film takes off.
In the first half, Ricky and Bubbles (Mike Smith) both face their parents’ death, which yields little comical fruit. Ricky’s eulogy to his late father at a garbage dump isn’t too amusing. Bubbles, who lives under the steps of the house belonging to honky hip-hopper J-Roc (Jonathan Torrens), receives a mysterious note in the mail. You just know his luck is about to change.
So is Ricky’s. Operating a bustling grow-op in a real house with a real basement, his business is threatened by Ottawa’s plan to legalize marijuana. The competition would kill him. “The biggest mistake I ever made was giving up on growing dope,” he said, vowing never to do it again. (As The Globe and Mail’s unofficial medical marijuana reporter, I can safely say that Ricky’s worry about the government screwing up is perhaps his most coherent argument.)
While Ricky frets about what the free market would do to his precious plants, Julian (John Paul Tremblay) may have cornered the market with his latest scheme: drug-free urine. “It’s the quality and freshness of the piss that’s important,” he explains.
While the three reprobates from Dartmouth can’t agree on anything, they all have big dreams and distant destinations. Ricky wants to go to Ottawa to disrupt the parliamentary hearings on legalizing marijuana. Montreal beckons Julian, who seeks to close a big urine deal with his nemesis, Cyrus. And Bubbles needs to head toward Kingston, where his parents have left him an estate that we soon learn is a dilapidated school bus on a plot of land terrorized by wolves.
While this reviewer has never understood the various charms of Bubbles, the quiet, more sensitive Sunnyvale resident ends up being the king of this road movie. Whether it’s his puzzling vocabulary over a CB radio, his snowball-like fight with Lahey (using beer bottles) or even his quiet moment of reflection in the school bus listening to country music, Bubbles is a scene-chewer. Ricky’s uproarious storming of Parliament doesn’t come close, even though it includes a subtle cameo by advocate Jodie Emery.
If the Trailer Park Boys track record is any indicator, Bubbles will likely have his own mini-series. And who knows, maybe even his own album of emo-songs.