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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Canadian Film Review: Men with Brooms (2002)

* * 1/2

Director: Paul Gross
Starring: Paul Gross, Molly Parker, Leslie Nielsen

Not too long ago I caught a few minutes of the television version of Men with Brooms and thought, "Wow, this is really broad and simplistic," and it caught me off guard because I'd always heard generally favourable things about the movie version. Having now seen the film, I have to say that the TV series, while broader and more simple-minded, really isn't that far off, though it does lack the film's scrappy charm.

Men with Brooms is your basic return of the prodigal son story which finds Chris Cutter (Paul Gross) returning to his home town after the death of his former curling coach. In his will the coach expresses his desire for Chris and his former teammates - Neil (James Allodi), James (Peter Outerbridge), and Eddie (Jed Rees) - to reteam and win the Golden Broom. The four men are reluctant to follow through; Neil's wife (Kari Matchett) is unsupportive, Eddie is preoccupied trying to conceive with his wife (Jane Spidell), James is trying to avoid a large, angry man to whom he owes some money, and Chris is still trying to deal with the issues that drove him out of town in the first place, issues which include the coach's two daughters, Julie (Michelle Nolden), to whom he was engaged when he split, and Amy (Molly Parker), an alcoholic single mother who has always held a torch for him.

The four eventually get it together and begin training with Chris' father (Leslie Nielsen), a former curling champion. Chris and his father don't exactly get along and his dad isn't exactly in peak physical condition, which eventually necessitates physical therapy from Amy. This wouldn't be a crushing blow except that as the championship match nears, Neil is forced to drop out and Chris' dad takes his place only to be taken out of commision shortly thereafter.

Gross, who co-wrote and directed the film in addition to starring, keeps things feeling loose and fun, establishing the tone through a series of light slapstick at the beginning. The film doesn't take itself too seriously and is overall a light, enjoyable film. The cast, most of whom are easily recognizable to anyone with even a small degree of familiarity with Canadian films and TV, does well with the material and Gross and Parker, who do the dramatic heavy lifting, are able to give just a little bit of weight to the story.

Where the film falters is in its construction. The story is a bit of a mess of subplots and small supporting characters whose only function is to add a bit of color. The film doesn't hang together easily and the plot doesn't always move forward in the most elegant way. All in all I would say that Men with Brooms is in a bit of a grey area in that I enjoyed it but, at the same time, I think it's just a few notces below being truly "good."

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