Oy Canada

The Circlevision 360 film in Epcot’s Canada pavilion was finally replaced with an updated edition last week, leaving “Impressions de France” as the last opening-day film still running in the park. The old “O Canada” was derided by Canadian visitors for offering a very dated view of life in their country, but I’m not sure they’ll be much happier with the new show.

The good:
1) The new film is shorter by at least 5 minutes, a welcome change in the seat-free theater.
2) The footage that has been recycled from the old version has been nicely restored, and looks nearly as clean as the new material.
3) There are a few nice new arial 360 shots of Canadian cities and landscapes.
4) The new recording of the “O Canada” theme song is inoffensive, and the Canadian Idol singer acquits herself adequately with the vocals. (Shame about the Casio keyboard instrumental arrangement).

The bad:
1) Martin Short as the host. I’m no Short-hater (I even paid to see his one-man show on Broadway last year) but he only works in small doses. Short is best when playing one of his characters, like Jiminy Glick or Ed Grimley. When he’s “playing” himself, he wears out his welcome quickly.
2) The comedy writing is extremely weak. There are so many big pauses for laughs that never come, I could have sworn there were crickets chirping on the soundtrack.
3) Despite explicitly attempting to show the more “modern” side of Canada, the film reinforces the impression that the country is little more than a source for outdoor recreation and B-list celebrities. Even the cities are made to seem like cheap copies of more cosmopolitan centers. I came away thinking that Canada has contributed nothing unique or important to world culture and industry beyond William Shatner.
6) The vast majority of the new footage was not shot by Disney, but provided by the Canadian Tourism Board in an effort to save money. This new footage isn’t 360, but just standard single-camera shots that are mirrored or tiled around the room. The Cirque du Soleil footage in particular would have been much more compelling had it been shot in 360 (and not so obviously at filmed here at La Nouba instead of in Montreal).
5) Did I mention the comedy?

And the ugly:
1) The tounge-in-cheek, poke-fun-at-Disney-park-conventions, hip-&-ironic attitude throughout the script. It’s not quite as grating as in Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management, but it’s close. Inside jokes about “invisible narrators” and “Soarin’ fastpasses” just serve to take us out of the moment, and reiforce the idea that Canada is nothing but a punchline. Or maybe I wouldn’t object if they were actually funny…

In short (pun intended): worth seeing once, especially when the humidity is high and you need an air-conditioned escape. But I expect it to age even worse than the old film, which despite it’s dated fashions at least had a cheesy retro charm.

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