If you ever find yourself expanding a 22 minute sitcom to a story capable of sustaining a feature length movie you can’t just elongate the original idea. Corner Gas: The Movie takes the original formula of one of Canada’s most popular television shows and stretches it to uncomfortable lengths that never works.
It’s been 5 years since we last caught up with the unique denizens of Dog River, Saskatchewan, and for them not much has changed in the town 40 kilometers from nowhere, but all that’s about to change or else there wouldn’t be a reason to even pick up with everything again. The citizens have learned that their town’s finances have been horribly mismanaged, and it looks like they may have to pack up move or get absorbed by those scoundrels in Wullerton the next town over. They band together in a last ditch effort in order to win the “Quaintest Town in Canada Contest” and get their town back up and running again.
I’ll admit, during its initial 107 episode run on TV Corner Gas was pretty cute and actually provided some fun moments that generated some genuine laughs and memorable characters. But when you take a 22 minute story and drag it out to 90 minutes it just ends up being an interminable mess of a movie. It doesn’t even feel like several episodes of the show strung together. It just feels endless, aimless, and pointlessly long. There’s nothing here that can’t be done in 22 minutes or less.
Director David Storey takes the same formula – delivered by star and head writer Brent Butt – and doesn’t try to expand on it or attempt to make it cinematic, grand, or worthy of more than an extra hour that shouldn’t be there. The movie has so much filler that it’s hard to know where to even start. It sets up the main arc and supporting story arcs so fast that it feels like it will wrap up as quick as the show wraps things up, but then it starts wasting time with repeated gags, lame jokes, and restating the obvious over and over again. It’s like a fatty T-Bone steak where most of the meat is gone. There’s no reason to keep it in front of you. The direction is substandard and Butt and his co-writers script doesn’t deviate because he can’t seem to tell a story that would take more than the length of a sitcom episode or a stand up set.
The entire ensemble returns and everyone steps into their roles reasonably well and with a good deal of good will, but they almost have pained look son their collective faces as the jokes and the material goes from cute to beating a dead horse. It’s not even a fresh joke; it’s variations on a theme that just force them into earning paycheques because they showed up to work. “If they’re here, we better have them do something,” seems to be the film’s somewhat cynical mentality.
The show has a fan base and as a show runner like Butt is, it’s obvious that you want to do things to keep the core supporters happy, but they deserve much better than Corner Gas: The Movie. It doesn’t qualify as a movie and it just drags out the same old formula so poorly that it doesn’t qualify as a TV show, either. It makes me sad because this will be shown to the masses as a piece of Canadian filmmaking when we have done, and are capable of, so much more. It’s a film destined to become a punchline when people reference Canadian pop culture. It never had to be this way. The show was fine. This film shouldn’t exist.
Corner Gas: The Movie screens through Cineplex Front Row Events from December 3rd through the 7th at select theatres before its debut on CTV, The Comedy Network and the CTV GO app before its release on DVD & Blu-Ray before the holidays.