Canadian Bacon: Remembering John Candy 30 Years Later

John Candy in Canadian Bacon. Courtesy of MGM.

Canadian Bacon may have been the only narrative feature directed by Michael Moore but it was the final film to star John Candy.

No Canadians were harmed in the making of the film.

I decided to watch the film to mark the thirtieth anniversary of Candy’s passing. Honestly, it was either this or Wagon’s East, which also starred the late Richard Lewis. In any event, Canadian Bacon was available to stream through Hoopla without commercial interruption. Despite this film having a later theatrical release, Candy had been filming Wagon’s East prior to his passing in March 1994. Anyway, 1995 Cannes Film Festival would select the film for its Un Certain Regard section. Listen, this is not the type of film that one thinks of when they think of the Cannes Film Festival.

Imagine serving as the President of the United States (Alan Alda) in the early to mid-1990s. The Soviet Union has fallen and broken up so businessmen are not making a profit out of their missile factories anymore, including R.J. Hacker (G.D. Spradlin). As a result, the economy is not doing so well. Presidential aides have to be creative so as to distract from the economic wells. Russian President Vladimir Kruschkin (Richard E. Council) will not even pretend to get back to the olden days. All that’s really left is Canada and the “world’s longest unprotected border.” Can the American government–and by extend, the media–sell the idea that Canada is a threat to American survival? Funny enough, Niagara County Sheriff Bud B. Boomer (John Candy) triggers the whole idea during a hockey game fight.

Boomer and his girlfriend, Deputy Sheriff Honey, prevent a Hacker Dynamics employee, Roy Boy (Kevin J. O’Connor), from jumping over the Niagara Falls. They have an incentive either way as they make money no matter what. Roy Boy had lost his job after Hacker closed the local weapons manufacturing plant. Anyway, the president is town and of course, Hacker is on the scene. The president says one thing to Hacker about focusing on children over war but another thing to General Dick Panzer (Rip Torn) and National Security Advisor Stuart Smiley (Kevin Pollack) about needing an enemy. Smiley just happens to be watching the news when he sees a report on the fight between Boomer, Honey, and Kabral Jabar (Bill Nunn) and the Canadians.

There are two different plotlines that the film focuses on. One is the president and his administration. The other is Boomer, Honey, Roy Boy and Kabral. They make mistake after mistake while dropping no shortage of pop culture references. Where things ultimate come to ahead is when Honey, who escaped from a hospital finds herself at the CN Tower and destroys the Hellstrom Hacker. She just happens to save the day for the Americans, who have no idea how to shut off the system after Hacker launched it. Of course, Smiley managed to grab the codes but he was arrested. Oh yeah, Boomer climbs up 10,000 stairs and makes it to the top. The Omega Force chasing after them end up running out of breath and give up. As the film ends, Moore naturally lets us know what happened to everyone.

The premise behind Canadian Bacon is so absurd that it could very well have come from the mind of Mel Brooks. Was Moore trying to do his best at making a Mel Brooks-esque comedy? Or was he doing his best at paying homage to the likes of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove? Obviously, the Kubrick film set the gold standard for what political satires should be. Regardless, there are a number of funny moments throughout this film, which imagines a situation at the border between the United States and our neighbors to the north, Canada. It isn’t lost on me that the holier-than-thou American sheriff is being portrayed by the late Canadian actor, John Candy. Anyway, one of the hysterical moments comes when an OPP officer (Dan Aykroyd) pulls Boomer over because the truck’s graffiti does not feature any French translations.

Maybe it’s because of my sense of humor but I found myself laughing plenty of times during this viewing. It just says something about how absurd the whole situation is. Keep in mind, Moore made the film as a result of President Bush’s high approval ratings during the Gulf War. But anyway, it’s funny. Canadians do come and go across the American border but you never hear Republicans complaining about our neighbors to the north, only about the southern between the US and Mexico. Make it make sense!

CAST: Alan Alda, John Candy, Bill Nunn, Kevin J. O’Connor, Rhea Perlman, Kevin Pollak, G.D. Spradlin, Rip Torn, Steven Wright

Gramercy Pictures released Canadian Bacon in theaters on September 22, 1995. Grade: 4/5

Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Buttondown.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.