Yesterday, having watched a bit of the Winter Games, I decided that I wanted to watch a movie about curling.
Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that there aren’t really a lot of curling films out there. There’s several films about ice skaters, of course. They all feature haughty skaters being forced to partner up with blue collar amateurs and almost all of them end with everyone falling in love. (Yay!) And there’s plenty of hockey movies. They all feature brawny Canadians getting into fights and almost all of them end with someone losing their front two teeth. (Yay!) But there aren’t a whole lot of curling movies. I guess some people don’t believe that a broom on ice can be cinematic. Well, the joke’s on them! Brooms are very cinematic! However, I did finally come across the 2002 Canadian film, Men With Brooms, on Tubi.
Now, you should understand that when I say that Men With Brooms is a Canadian film, I mean that it is very, very Canadian. This isn’t just a film that was shot in Canada by an American company looking for tax credits and a city that looked like New York without being as expensive. Instead, this is a film about very polite people who say “eh?” frequently and who are usually wearing several layers of clothing in order to protect from the chill in the air and the snow on the ground. This not a film that was shot in Canada for an American audience. This is a film that was made by Canadians for Canadians and that’s actually kind of nice. There’s even a scene where the characters bemoan the arrival of another “American” fast food restaurant. Speaking as an American, I think we are far too often guilty of taking our neighbors to the north for granted. It’s good to be reminded that they are a separate nation with a separate culture and their own individual way of looking at the world.
The film begins with the death of an old man named Donald Foley (James B. Douglas). Ten years before he died, Donald was the head coach of the greatest curling rink to ever play in Ontario. (For those — like me! — who are not familiar with all of the details and lingo of curling, a rink is just another word for team.) However, the rink broke up under mysterious circumstances. The former rink skip (team captain), Chris Cutter (Paul Gross), left Foley’s daughter at the altar and skipped town. He also tossed the rink’s curling stones into a lake! In fact, it was while he was retrieving the stones that Donald had the heart attack that killed him. Way to go, Chris, ya hoser!
The entire team reunites for Foley’s cremation and they discover that the coach has had his ashes put into a curling stone. And he wants the team to come back together and to win a championship using that very stone! And he also wants Chris to reconnect with his father, Gordon (Leslie Nielsen). Of course, it turns out that Chris is not the only member of the team to have issues. One team member has a low sperm count. Another one is a drug dealer and another is having a mid-life crisis. But they’ll all set aside their differences and try to win one for the coach! And if they even think about quitting, there will always be a helpful townsperson around to say, “You’re going to win the Golden Broom, eh?”
Tonally, Men With Brooms is all over the place. Odd comedic moments are mixed in with scenes of sentimental drama and the end result is a film that never seem to be quite sure what it’s trying to be. Not all of the big emotional moments pay off. Leslie Nielsen, though, is pretty good playing a relatively straight role. (He still gets his share of funny lines but this performance is definitely a different comedic beast from the deadpan style of self-parody that he’s best known for.) Ultimately, flaws aside, it’s a likable and fairly well-acted film, one that has a gentle spirit in even its raunchier moments. It’s just so damn Canadian that it’s hard not to appreciate it.
Add to that, it’s a good film to watch if you’re trying to teach yourself about curling. It may have been a slight film but, thanks to Men With Brooms, I now officially know that a curling team is called a rink. You learn something new every day.