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You can lead the coarse, but you can't make 'em think

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From left, Robb Wells, Mike Smith and Jean Paul Tremblay play themselves, sort of, in SwearNet.

CHRISTOS KALOHORIDIS / EONE FILMS Enlarge Image

From left, Robb Wells, Mike Smith and Jean Paul Tremblay play themselves, sort of, in SwearNet.

It is extremely unlikely that SwearNet, a rude, crude, ramshackle Canuck comedy from the guys who gave us Trailer Park Boys, will ever be a contender for a Genie Award, never mind an Oscar.

Nevertheless, all you Academy voters out there, remember Robb Wells, won't you?

For your consideration: Playing himself in SwearNet, Wells hears about a promotional event that will include appearances by both Tom Green and Carrot Top and is obliged to convincingly utter the line: "I love those guys!

Bravo, Robb. Bravissimo.

If that particular line of dialogue was a thespian challenge, Wells and co-stars Jean Paul Tremblay and Mike Smith trowel on even more taxing assignments when they are obliged to come up with a viable followup to TPB.

Playing themselves as marginally more intelligent versions of Ricky, Julian and Bubbles, Wells, Tremblay and Smith exit the Trailer Park universe to pitch new ideas to stuffy TV executives of Canadian National Television. (CNT, get it?) But they aren't prepared to bend when an exec gives them a list of network stipulations: "Even if you're willing to do more Trailer Park Boys," she says, "the new CNT guidelines would restrict you to two f s, two c--ks, and four sh--s per episode."

Well, the heck with that kind of oppression. Trumpeting the cultural ethos that "people f ing swear," the guys decide to take their foul-mouthed shtick to the Internet and SwearNet is born.

The guys enlist Patrick Roach -- who played unlikely male prostitute Randy on TPB -- as their expletive-spouting mascot, "Swearman." Roach also functions as a kind of comedic whipping boy, absorbing humiliation and punishment as required.

And the adventure begins... and is immediately placed in jeopardy. To fund SwearNet, Mike has borrowed money from a pair of unhinged loan sharks, Mr. Pinchbeck (Daniel Lilford) and Logi (Dana Woods). Robb is on the outs with his unhinged, high-maintenance girlfriend Julie (Sarah Jurgens). And Jean Paul, his bulky physique stuffed into racer overalls, has his heart set on winning the East Coast Targa Race in memory of his deceased dad, whose ashes are crammed into the action figure doll he keeps in his race car.

The setup suggests the movie is going to veer into a hidden-camera/prank-filled narrative la Borat or Bad Grandpa, but non-stop expletives notwithstanding, SwearNet plays it safe.

Of course, "safe" is a relative term when the content involves alarming male nudity, vomit, LSD-induced cannibalism and a Tom Green/Carrot Top combo of dubious celebrity.

One devoutly wishes it was funny. Some of it is just sad. Witness a scene in which Mike exits his party house, saying farewell to three bikini-clad young women and a topless girl waving good-bye from the window of an upper floor. That girl, fulfilling a female-nudity obligation, is meant to invoke lust, but she just looks awkward and poignantly miserable.

Also sad: three guys on the wrong side of 40 playing out a scatological frat-boy scenario wherein, for example, Robb is taken for task for being under the thumb of his control-freak girlfriend.

SwearNet is decidedly anti-climactic coming in the wake of the Trailer Park Boys, a series grounded by its three fully developed sleazeball characters. Ricky, Julian and Bubbles mitigated all the bad behaviour. Wells, Tremblay and Smith: not so much. Playing versions of themselves, they come off as a little desperate to break new ground. To say the least, it's dubious that a project about swearing was the way to go.

I told my kids when they were growing up that profanity should be used sparingly. That way, when it does get used, it will have more impact.

If you're swearing non-stop, the words lose all their power. Eventually, it's just noise.

Case in point: SwearNet.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 29, 2014 D5

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