The Grand Seduction: Not Even Brendan Gleeson Can Save This Cutesy Canadian Confection

The Grand Seduction

Opens Fri., June 13 at Guild 45th. Rated PG-13. 112 minutes.

During the SIFF screening I attended for The Grand Seduction, the audience was chortling and sighing at all the right moments. The picture went over so big it had me worrying that some people might think this is the sort of movie you should see at a film festival. It’s not. For all its super-nice intentions, attractive players, and right-thinking messages, this thing might’ve come out of a can. It is, literally, from formula: an English-language remake of the French-Canadian film Seducing Dr. Lewis, seen at SIFF ‘04 and written by Ken Scott. He’s becoming an industry at this kind of thing: His fertility-clinic comedy Starbuck had its recent Hollywood remake as a Vince Vaughn vehicle, Delivery Man.

What we have here is some real Northern exposure: A dying Canadian harbor town will see its only shot at landing a new factory shrivel away unless a full-time doctor settles there. The local fishing industry’s broken, but the movie mostly blames government regulation, not overfishing. By hook and crook, they get a young M.D. (Taylor Kitsch) to take a month’s residency; now every townsperson must connive to convince the guy this is the only place to live. (One good gag: They keep leaving $5 bills lying about for the doc to find—because who doesn’t love free money?) The town is, unfortunately, called Tickle Point. At this level of relentless sugar candy, it could hardly be anything else. Director Don (Last Night) McKellar’s participation, given his previously dark-hued comedy output, suggests a surrender to wholesomeness.

I’m sorry to say that the great Brendan Gleeson is the leader of the Tickle Point conspiracy, supported by Canadian legend Gordon Pinsent (Away From Her) in the Wilford Brimley crusty-curmudgeon role. Kitsch comes off rather well; he looks far more relaxed here than in the blockbuster haze of John Carter and Battleship, perhaps because he isn’t shamelessly twinkling at every turn.

The French-language original was just as overbearing. Of that one, I wrote, “[It] needs a dash of brine to put it in the Local Hero category,” and seeing this version just confirms how wonderfully 1983’s Local Hero carried insight and beauty beneath its whimsy. But something else relegates Grand Seduction to truly annoying status. The promised factory will be built by a petrochemical corporation, which demands a huge illegal bribe for blessing Tickle Point with its future presence there. But this is no Frank Capra movie, where the rich and the corrupt get their comeuppance by the end. Tickle Point will pay the bribe, and bring in the oil guys. This is what passes for a feel-good movie.

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