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The Suburbanators

1995, Starring Joel McNichol, Stephen Spender, Stewart Burdett, Jihad Traya. Directed by Gary Burns.

You may notice that The Suburbanators, long unavailable on video, is now being distributed by Troma, infamous for such films as The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke 'Em High and Surf Nazis Must Die. Because of this, you may assume that The Suburbanators is the tale of radioactive punks on scrap heap motorcycles hell-bent on destroying the suburban landscape. Not quite.

The Suburbanators is Gary Burns' first film, and is probably the only film ever in the history of cinema to show what it's like to be bored and drive around Calgary. It's also a very Canadian take on the indie rock loafer scene of the mid-1990s usually dominated by American films.

Like other films of its ilk, there isn't really much of a plot to speak of in The Suburbanators. Instead, there are three groups of people whose lives periodically intersect. Al and Bob, and a second pair, Carl and Eric, are slowly making their way to Tim's house to buy some pot. The third group is a band of Arabian musicians, Salah, Roger and Kareem, who are trying to retrieve their instruments from an absent friends apartment. Each group basically walks around, talking about their lives. These three plotlines periodically intertwine, such as in the "shoe burn" incident, where Carl accidentally burns a girl's hand with his cigarette as they walk by. When he stops to half-heartedly apologize, the cherry on his cigarette falls on to her shoe, and starts burning a hole through it. When she realizes, she starts yelling and demands that he give her some money. The audience never actually sees this, it is only later described by Al and Bob to their barber.

The second incident is when the police raid Tim's house. As this is happening, Al and Bob drive by and leave when they see the cop cars. Carl and Eric are actually in the house when the police break in, and they manage to slip outside and into a wooden garbage pail bin. The three Arabic musicians, who are waiting outside for their friend, see them get into the bin. Puzzled, they start to throw rocks and pebbles at the box. Finally having enough, Carl and Eric get out of the box and run away, throwing a few stones back at the musicians.

The rest of the scenes in the film are just humorous events that happen to the three groups of characters, and their conversations about girls, friends, jobs and their lives. It's a fairly funny film, with my favourite scene being Bob's "my car is my penis" observations. I've always thought that The Suburbanators was very similar to Richard Linklater's first feature, Slacker, which is about having nothing to do in Austin. Instead of going from one character to another like Slacker, The Suburbanators actually attempts to bring some elements of story in. Whereas in Slacker the characters are for the most part frustrated intellectuals, fringe-dwellers, and slightly maladjusted lollygaggers, in The Suburbanators, there is just nothing going on. The characters go on and on about the girl who gets accidently burned by a cigarette as if it was the funniest thing of all time, even though it's little more than an everyday occurrence.

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