Friday, July 30, 2004

Go See Ham & Cheese, Please.

Every so often, I am reminded of just how subjective a movie-watching experience can be. I opened up The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star today, expecting to find rave reviews of Canadian indy comedy Ham & Cheese, which I watched earlier this week and thought was one of the funniest movies I've seen in the past few years. But no. Leah McLaren (when did she start reviewing movies in The Globe?) gives it a lukewarm review. In the Star, John Terauds doesn't like it one bit.

Well, I guess I'm going to have to go it alone then. As I write in my article in today's Post:
Despite its humble origins, Ham & Cheese is the funniest Canadian movie in recent memory. Aside from its cheaply done titles, the film shows no sign of having been shot on "a bag of chips and a case of beer," as [co-writer and star Mike] Beaver puts it. It is chock full of cameos from some of Canada's top comedians, including former Kids in the Hall members Dave Foley and Scott Thompson, who enthusiastically worked on the film for a fraction of their usual pay. Also appearing on screen are The Daily Show's Samantha Bee and The Bobroom co-star Jennifer Baxter, [co-writer and star Jason] Jones and Beaver's respective successful real-life wives, as well as ubiquitous CanCon stars such as Polly Shannon and Christian Potenza.

Comparisons to Waiting for Guffman, Christopher Guest's mock doc about a small-town theatre troupe, are inevitable, but Ham & Cheese is much darker in tone and has more in common with edgy small-screen comedies like BBC's The Office or HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm...

Anyone who has ever been to a theatre or film audition will recognize Ham & Cheese's two main characters. Richard (Beaver) is an overweight misfit, who moves from small-town Ontario to Toronto to act in collective-creation Fringe plays. Barry (Jones) is a little older, tells jokes that would make The Office's David Brent roll his eyes, and is destroying his marriage in order to pursue his dream. Both characters' ineptitude makes audiences cringe even as they guffaw. "We love uncomfortable moments," Jones says. "They're so interesting to watch. And they're so funny."
Perhaps it's my theatre background that makes me adore this film, but I don't think so... Variety called it a potential cult classic. A film reviewer who saw it at a film festival in the States said it was better than Waiting for Guffman.

I wholeheartedly urge you (you Torontonians, anyway) to go see this film. It's playing at the Royal on College St. for a week and a week only. If the box office is good this weekend, it may roll over into the Carleton Cinema. There are several U.S. distributors waiting to see what happens this weekend -- this long weekend when so many people are going out of town.

So, yes: Go see Ham & Cheese, please! It'll kill me if this movie just dies...

Post-script

Well, at least Eye liked it...

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