Butt of the joke

Bland Canadian comedy is bland Canadian

No Clue is like a gentle nana hug of Canuck humour the kind of old-timey comedy rarely seen outside of made-for-TV movies. It’s full of goofy groaners and geriatric witticisms achingly Canadian and stuffed with Tim Hortons product placement. Basically it’s a feature-length episode of Corner Gas if the show tried to ape Matlock . And like that dose of prairie pastoralia this one is also written by and starring Brent Butt. Therefore enjoyment of No Clue will be in direct proportion to your love of Butt’s brand of “wocka wocka” non-offensive humour. Comedy genius or Telefilm mediocrity; take your pick.

Still reading? Okay: Leo Falloon (Butt) is a nebbish salesman working in downtown Vancouver. One cloudy West Coast day he gets a visit from Kyra (Amy Smart) a saucy femme fatale looking for her missing brother. She’s mistaken Leo’s office for a private investigator’s down the hall but he’s so overcome by her hotness that he doesn’t bother to correct her and agrees to take on the case.

Leo proves to be nearly useless fatty grunting and bumbling his way from one clue to the next. (Butt jokes about his weight throughout the flick complaining to various thugs that he doesn’t like to get pinched on chubby parts of his body.) The missing man is a video game-designing superstar and the plot gets into stuff about competing companies jealous and slutty girlfriends and armed thugs. Throughout it all Leo proves how easy it is to solve a crime. It’s the idiot plot in its distilled form; if anyone bothered to just call the cops it’d be over in five minutes. Leo also has an unwilling sidekick in best pal Ernie (David Koechner) there to deliver some witty G-rated repartee. There are a couple of fist fights one murder schoolyard-inspired insults and a convoluted mystery over-explained in the final third of the movie. It’s all like a soft and warm blanket smelling of wholesome goodness.

The film is really just a love letter to Corner Gas fans who can’t get enough of Butt and his brand of woefully square dad jokes. (There’s at least one cameo from the show I recognized.) Who the fuck says “shizzle my nizzle” anymore? He even mentions Nelly Furtado out of nowhere easily the most interesting and strange part of the movie. There’s also a joke about a fat man’s armpit that I remember laughing at and someone gets called “ass lips” which sounds gross. To his credit his trademark delayed and dry delivery is appropriate for an old-fashioned mystery of this sort.

The rest of the cast is decent; Smart proves to be a good foil to Butt’s would-be detective playing a double-crossing badass with a certain kind of polite pluckiness. Koechner is always welcome especially when he’s making fun of Butt. Alas the tiny role requires him to rein in his usually unhinged persona. He sticks out like a sore thumb in the flick; I’d say it’s a lost opportunity but he doesn’t belong here in the first place.

The film gets the look right with Vancouver’s dank and grey streets adding some sorely needed noir attitude. Butt’s warm-hearted joker is like a dose of Mr. Clean to Vancouver’s mildewy darkness. The city always looks like C.H.U.D.s are just about to pop out of the sewers and alleyways. The location is also practical; the climax takes place on a boat which would be hard to pull off in rural Saskatchewan.

No Clue is ideal fodder for an afternoon matinee on Showcase or CTV the kind of entertainment best experienced while stationed on the couch with the flu. A drugged-out haze should elevate Butt’s goofy wheat-belly comedy to something more universally palatable.

NO CLUE directed by Carl Bessai starring Brent Butt Amy Smart and David Koechner