Artisan // 2002 // 102 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Nicholas Sylvain (Retired) // January 15th, 2003
There's more than one way to sweep a woman off her feet.
A light comedy about a little known sport, Men With Brooms is a Canadian love poem for the oddity of curling and the curious people who are obsessed with it. With all the Canadian dollars floating around, pity that Artisan could not muster more than a few scraps of extra content in bringing Men With Brooms to disc.
When legendary curling coach Donald Foley (James B. Douglas) dies suddenly, curling skipper Chris Cutter (Paul Gross) comes back to the small Canadian town of his childhood after an unexplained ten year absence. Foley's last wishes reunite Chris Cutter and his former teammates for one last run at the Golden Broom curling championship. However, each of these four men brings heavy baggage to the ice.
Cutter is not only haunted by his unsavory curling past, but he also must navigate a tricky course in love with Foley's daughters, astronaut Julie (Michelle Nolden) and single mom Amy (Molly Parker). Neil Bucyk (James Allodi) is a mortician with a wife colder than his clients, James Lennox (Peter Outerbridge) is a womanizing drug dealer fleeing a drug debt collector, and Eddie Strombeck (Jed Rees) has a single digit sperm count. Put all of them together, and they still can't curl to save their lives without the addled wisdom and coaching from Cutter's estranged father, Gordon (Leslie Nielsen).
Against the latest curling sensation, a team (known in curling as a 'rink') headed by Alexander 'the Juggernaut' Yount (Greg Bryk), with his sharp uniforms, flashy entrances, and cheerleaders, what chance do our intrepid small town heroes have?
As Toronto Star columnist Richard Gwyn put it in a recent column, it's curling that really distinguishes the two nations of North America. When you mention curling, Canadians recognize the topic at hand, and might even be able to have a reasonable conversation about it. Americans usually stare blankly or think you're talking about weightlifting.
I have to admit, I...
There, I said it. I had only the vaguest notion of curling until the recent 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah. I tend to watch most any Olympic competition, particularly of the winter variety. When you add that to my nocturnal habits and TV executives judging the popularity of curling justifies broadcasting curling around, oh, 2AM, you might understand how I ended up watching curling.
Still, of all the ancient forms of competition ever envisioned by man, how come sliding heavy stones across ice to the whip-whip of brooms has stood the test of time? Using a sheet of ice for curling seems to be a good waste of hockey terrain, but curling does have its charms. Serenely gliding granite stones, people frantically sweeping brooms in front of said stones, piquant intensity in the participants, and the simplicity of Newton's laws of motion are bizarrely fascinating. I can't say that I'm a fan, but now after Men With Brooms, you might begin to have an appreciation for curling as I do (at least when there's no hockey or ice skating or figure skating to watch...).
Down here in the U.S. of A., you probably only know Paul Gross from his role as Constable Benton Frasier on the popular Due South show. An army brat hailing from Calgary, Canada, Gross gets his chance in Men With Brooms not only to make his theatrical debut as composer, writer, producer, and director, but to make a thoroughly Canadian film, from its financing, to its acting, and its story. Yet, in a testament to just how much we have in common with each other, without the story's focus on curling, I'm not sure how quickly the casual observer would pick up on Men With Brooms's Canadian pedigree.
In general, Men With Brooms is a competent freshman effort by Paul Gross. References to this film as a "Canadian Cool Runnings" do reflect the truth that the basic story is far from unique. A bunch of misfits (re)unite, face near-impossible odds, and triumph (in some fashion) over implacable foes and long odds, well, that's been done before. However, I doubt there will be many such films about curling. Still, that's hardly a serious flaw when an unambitious Men With Brooms aspires to something less than grand sweeping drama. This is a light, amusing film, lacking serious character definition or development, but more than adequately compensating with affection for the subject, well-timed comedy, and ensemble acting. Though the effort to create a relationship triangle between Paul Gross and female leads Molly Parker and Michelle Nolden fizzles more than sparks, chalk it up a failure to write better romantic filler and not to an acting deficiency.
On that latter note, though it may seem hard to believe now, but Leslie Nielsen (Dr. Kildare, Forbidden Planet, Airplane!) is capable of more than exaggerated comedy shtick. That Nielsen can restrain his outrageousness in favor of softer humor in a role with unsympathetic qualities is the unexpected surprise of Men With Brooms. Leading the rest of the pack, Paul Gross has picked colleagues who blend seamlessly into the flow of the movie, such as Peter Outerbridge (Millennium, Mission to Mars), Jed Rees (last seen as Thermian Historian Teb in Galaxy Quest), and Greg Bryk as the perfectly snooty curling superstar.
The anamorphic video is excellent. The picture is crisp and clean, without appreciable digital edge enhancement, bits of dirt or other flaws, and nicely saturated colors. A touch of grain, but nothing significant. As for sound, the Dolby Digital 5.1 is a competent comedy mix. For those of you who don't speak Sylvain shorthand, that means the sound is pleasing across the front soundstage, but given the content, little for the rear surrounds or subwoofer to do.
The extra content is sparse. Inexplicably, only the theatrical trailer, least likely to entice anyone to make a purchase, is listed on the box. The unadvertised content are brief (about five minutes each) featurettes on the making of Men With Brooms and on Paul Gross' career. Barely enough to whet the appetite, but not long enough for much substance, this is all they could manage? Shame on the Canadian money men for not throwing in a few Canadian dinero for at least a commentary track.
Well, it's about curling, and that's a foreign subject to many people. Worse, if you're allergic to Canadians, then beware, for Men With Brooms is chock full of nutty Canadian wholesome goodness. Third, it's not Shakespeare in the comedic, dramatic, or tragic sense, but perhaps none of these reasons is enough to drive you away. Well, don't say I didn't warn you.
A fine light comedy, Men With Brooms fills the basic requirement of any movie: it makes the time pass quite amiably. Go and see Men With Brooms without fear, but for a purchase, it seems overpriced ($25 list). Hold out for a bargain.
Not guilty, eh?
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Making-of Featurette
* Theatrical Trailer
* Interview with Paul Gross
* U.S. Curling Association
* Canadian Curling Association
* Newton's Laws of Motion
* Gross and Keely Official Site