In box office terms, the most successful Canadian film of all time is… Porky’s.
Bear this in mind as you read on. Opening Friday (March 1), The Movie Out Here wants to tickle your drunken frat-com funny bone, and based on the trailer and a few other factors, it actually might.
It also comes with an intense but low key buzz. The industry is very interested in the fate of The Movie Out Here because it’s a new thing under the sun; a pioneering exercise in multi-platform “branded entertainment” dreamt up by the marketing firm Grip Entertainment.
More plainly, it’s a feature-length departure from the Kokanee beer ads, wrapped inside a National Lampoon-shaped buddy comedy with crypto-zoological overtones and dollops of nudity.
“I think this is the model for how companies are going to advertise their products,” said actor Viv Leacock, maybe even seriously, when the Straight visited the set of The Movie Out Here late last summer at Golden Ears Provincial Park. “Honestly, I completely believe this is a smart move.”
Leacock also conceded that the very idea of spinning an R-rated film out of a series of TV spots, however popular, will be an automatic affront to some people. Sasquatch, the Glacier Girls, and even the Kokanee Ranger (despite being killed off in a 2008 commercial) have all been folded into the film’s plot—albeit peripherally. “But they know these characters. We’re not starting from zero,” he offered.
David Hicks is also acutely aware that The Movie Out Here has a glacier fresh mountain to climb in terms of perception. “I think we’re quite exposed, and I think all eyes are watching to see how we do,” said the film’s director, who is graduating to his first feature after helming most of the Kokanee ads over the last 12 years or so.
“But I have always felt that we’ve had a very good product," Hicks said. "It seems to be the best brand to ever spin a feature out of because it has just enough inherent characters that you can build a movie on it. I can’t imagine other advertisers having this luxury.”
Presumably he’s also aware that almost every movie is a covert commercial for something. The advantage Hicks has with The Movie Out Here is its bright young cast—the veteran Leacock (Hot Tub Time Machine) is joined by Robin (nephew of Leslie) Nielsen, James Wallis, and nascent cult movie queen Katharine (American Mary) Isabelle—and a creative team that’s had over a decade to hone its comedic chops. There was a soaring lunacy behind the best of the ads.
“The commercials were all in the same zone,” continued Hicks “They’re kinda just childish. If there’s anything that we’ve carried over it’s that we’ve never taken ourselves too seriously in the commercials, and we’re not taking ourselves too seriously out here. We’re just having fun with it.”
Hicks figured that Caddyshack is an apt model for what he’s trying to do. Leacock pointed to The Hangover and Bridesmaids. After a brief chat with the Kokanee Ranger himself—sonorous actor John Novak described his character as “like a mall cop who envisions himself in the old West”—and then spotting a certain NHL legend hulking around the set in a Sasquatch costume, it didn’t seem inconceivable that Hicks and his team could muster enough inspired goofball charm to actually pull it off.