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Duct Tape Forever (2002)

by on 2010/07/04

TV-to-feature adaptations have wound a long and uneven path.  In some instances, you get a satisfying result, as in the cases of The Brady Bunch Movie, Charlie’s Angels, The Fugitive, The Untouchables, and Wayne’s World.  In other rarer cases, entirely new franchises are spawned:  Mission Impossible, Monty Python, The Muppets, and Star Trek.

Unfortunately, the failure rate of these attempts are far higher.  And even more unfortunately Duct Tape Forever is just such an example.

This movie tells a story common to many of the aforementioned projects:  the main characters must leave their familiar environment and journey to a distant competition.  Based on the long-running Red Green series, most of the familiar characters (and actors) appear:  uncle Red, his nephew Harold, and series mainstays Dalton, Ed, Edgar, Mike, Ranger Gord, and Winston.  Conspicuously absent are Bill Smith (Rick Green of The Frantics fame) and Hap Shaughnessy (Gordon Pinsent).

While I am in no way intimately familiar with the entire run of the Red Green series, I’d definitely consider myself a fashionably-late fan.  While I’d hoped for more of the same in a single-serving standalone format, what I got was disappointingly different.  While I can understand the need to Raise The Stakes — introducing new elements to create and maintain the engine of conflict — Duct Tape Forever goes too far.

An evil businessman?  All right.  A corrupt sheriff?  Fine.  A judge exasperated by the antics of the Possum Lodgers?  Sure.  But the entire town set against them?  Their series rival Port Asbestos, yes, but their own Possum Lakers?  Well it’s a stretch for me but okay.

However, the real stick in my craw — or perhaps “off my ice” — was the antagonism, particularly between Red and Harold.  How did this movie merit the tag line, “Friends Stick Together”?  In the series, Harold could be an annoyance, but his fellows would readily tolerate him and, more significantly, care about him.  Here, as if to force a character arc, he begins practically as a pariah.  Whatever happened to Red’s refain of, “I’m pulling for you, we’re all in this together”?  The entire affair feels like a mean-spirited interpretation of the show.

This disconnect is mystifying to me since Duct Tape Forever was made during the series’ run, and involved most of the same cast and crew.  How could they feel so dissimilar in tone?  Watching was a slightly uncomfortable experience for me, like reuniting with a group of old friends and realizing (or at least suspecting) that they all resent each other.

Having recently seen a retrospective of the series, I know that Harold’s character was briefly written out of the show around the same time that the movie was made.  I couldn’t help but wonder as I watched whether some undercurrent of backstage animosity was driving the treatment of his character in the feature.

I may be “just” an occasional latter-day fan of Red Green, but I’m also a long-time fan of Steve and Morag Smith.  I’ve watched them on television in one form or another since the Seventies.  The sense of nostalgia they evoke in me is almost palpable; they’re as much a part of my childhood as Degrassi, Frightenstein, Just Like Mom, Magic Shadows, Rocket Robin Hood, the Urban Peasant, and Wok with Yan.

It’s difficult to convey how much I want to give this one a pass but the best I can do is to strongly endorse the original Red Green series instead.  While Duct Tape Forever isn’t a catastrophe on the level of Ali G Indahouse, it is a misfire nonetheless.  I’m sorry to say that not even the handyman’s secret weapon can mend this effort.

* *

Rated PG for adult situations

90 minutes

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