Movie Review: ‘Being Canadian’ is Lighthearted Look at Ambiguous Canadian Identity

William Shatner and Robert Cohen in "Being Canadian"
William Shatner and Robert Cohen in “Being Canadian”

Emmy-winning comedy writer/director/producer, Robert Cohen, who has worked on such shows as “The Big Bang Theory” and “Mad TV” (and is also known for having been married to Janeane Garofalo) found himself frustrated with the many stereotypes of Canadians. Born and raised in Calgary, he fielded a few too many stupid questions about moose meat and maple syrup. So, he decided to take a road trip east to west across his country in search of what it means to be Canadian and make a documentary about it called “Being Canadian.”

He poses a number of questions like “Why are Canadians obsessed with pointing out other Canadians?” He then interviews a number of famous Canucks who give him a parade of both heartfelt and tongue-in-cheek answers about their country’s inferiority complex.

The conclusion everyone seems to come to is that Canadians feel that they are overlooked and secondary to the U.S., and their identity only seems to be in comparison to their louder, more obnoxious neighbors down south. One interviewee even likens the U.S. to Marcia and Canada to Jan in “The Brady Bunch” (“Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”)

The U.S. is associated with baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie, but Cohen can’t pinpoint any identity that has ever been as definitive for Canada. Maple syrup? Sort of. Mounties? Well, kind of. But that most certainly ain’t all there is, and no catch phrase has ever really caught on.

Cohen begins his journey in the east and plans to make it to Vancouver in time for Canada Day celebrations. On the way, he meets a lot of locals and takes in the sights. I’m disappointed that he doesn’t include places like Nunavut or Yellowknife, but I guess that would have turned the film into a series.

Mike Myers in "Being Canadian"
Mike Myers in “Being Canadian”

What makes the documentary most enjoyable are the interviews. Cohen’s “quest” for what it means to be Canadian actually seems a bit lame. But it’s the jokes and patriotism of the people we all know that makes the film watchable. Those people include Michael J. Fox, Dan Ackroyd, Mike Myers, Cobie Smulders, Will Arnett, William Shatner, Jason Priestley, Seth Rogen, Nathan Fillion, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Howie Mandel, Caroline Rhea, Alex Trebek, Paul Shaffer, David Steinberg, and the rock band Rush.

My favorite of these interviews is a conversation between Cohen and Dave Foley from “The Kids in the Hall,” which they have while sharing a bed, lying next to each other with their upper chests exposed.

“Being Canadian” is a fun ride, and we’re left knowing at least a little bit more about (excuse me, that’s a-boot) Canada, and we understand better why the people who grew up there still love it dearly.

“Being Canadian” opens at Cinema Village in New York, The Crest in Los Angeles, and on demand across the U.S. on Friday, Sept. 18, 2015.


One response to “Movie Review: ‘Being Canadian’ is Lighthearted Look at Ambiguous Canadian Identity”

  1. Jane Boursaw Avatar

    I missed this when it played at the Traverse City Film Fest this summer. Sounds hilarious – will look for it On Demand this week.

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