By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
When one sees the Oscilloscope Pictures label before a movie, they should know that they’re in for a delightfully unsual treat. I cannot help, but sport a big grin whenever I see it and that’s how I felt at the beginning of this odd, but hilarious comedic satire. Though my familiarity with Canadian history is limited, I still found much to enjoy and appreciate in the The Twentieth Century, a movie that gives a highly fictionalized version of William Lyon Mackenzie King’s story. Touted as a cross between Monty Python and Guy Maddin, the movie serves as a spoofy satire of political aspirations and the trappings that politicians often fall into while pursuing and serving their vocation.
Dan Beirne stars as William Lyon Mackenzie King, a wide-eyed and earnest Canadian seeking the coveted office of Prime Minister of Canada. Not only is this seemingly lofty goal a dream of William’s it apparently is the literal dream and prediction of William’s ill mother (Louis Negin). Though William is sincere in his aspirations, he is afflicted with an odd and distasteful addiction of his own. As King’s hard work fails to get him to his desired goal, his jealousy and disappointment lead him down a path that is not so righteous.
Written and directed by Matthew Rankin, The Twentieth Century is an often uproarious, but also bizarre experience with a surreal and cartoonish approach. Rankin and his crew utilize artificial looking sets and color the movie in such a way that gives the audience the experience of watching a very old movie. It is an approach that works well as a unique aesthetic. Though the messages of the story are a bit on the nose, the comedy makes the experience totally worthwhile.
The humor certainly embraces the absurd and bizarre. One doesn’t necessarily have to be from Canada or very knowledgeable about Canada to appreciate all of the jokes and gags, but I do know that a few jokes did go over my head. Enough of the comedy works well enough to keep audiences of various backgrounds entertained. And much like Monty Python’s antics, some of the gags go a little over-the-top.
Dan Beirne does a great job as the lead character, portraying King rather straight and earnestly with just the right shades of zaniness when necessary. As Lord Muto, the Governor General of Canada, Sean Cullen gives a riotously funny hammy turn. I also enjoyed Louis Negin who gives a gender-bending performance as William’s mother. In addition Kee Chan chews a little scenery as the wicked Dr. Milton Wakefield.
The Twenthieth Century is one of those movies that may not find universal appeal. However, people who have a taste for the bizarre, absurd and surreal are sure to relish what this comedy has to offer. The movie opens in theaters on November 30, 2020. Fans of Oscilloscope Pictures will dig it the most.