Hard-core fans of Corner Gas were pretty miffed when the popular CTV sitcom stopped production back in 2009 after six seasons. Lucky for them, creator and star Brent Butt hasn’t gotten the show completely out of his system, because today (December 3), Corner Gas: The Movie opens for a five-night run at select Cineplex theatres.
On the phone from his home in Vancouver—where the standup comic turned actor has lived for more than 20 years—Butt explains that as soon as the series wrapped, plans were set in motion for a return.
“I really liked the idea of coming back at some point and doing a movie,” he says, “if we could, if it made sense. We were talking years down the road, so you can’t predict the future, but we were all of the mind that this would be a nice thing to do if we could make it work and make it good.”
CG:TM, which Butt describes as “the little-cherry-on-top kinda thing”, revisits the fictional setting of Dog River, Saskatchewan, five years after the final TV episode, with the town in crisis, threatened by self-serving politicians and greedy corporations. The challenge for director David Storey and cowriters Butt, Andrew Carr, and Andrew Wreggitt was to find the right balance while transferring the small-town exploits of its colourful characters to the big screen. The entire Corner Gas ensemble cast—Butt (Brent), Gabrielle Miller (Lacey), Eric Peterson (Oscar), Fred Ewanuick (Hank), Janet Wright (Emma), Lorne Cardinal (Davis), Tara Spencer-Nairn (Karen), and Butt’s wife, Nancy Robertson (Wanda)—returns for the feature.
“That was the trick,” Butt notes, “to try and make it cinematic while still keeping it this small show. And throughout the process of writing, we kept going back to the drawing board because we would take it a certain way and it would start to feel big and cinematic, so you could tell we were losing what made Corner Gas work. And then at other times, we would be saying, ‘Well, this really feels likeCorner Gas but it doesn’t feel like a movie; it feels like another episode.’ So that was the trick, finding that sweet spot.”
When you consider the sweet spots in Corner Gas—both the movie and the series—one of the sweetest has to be its theme song, “Not a Lot Goin’ On”. Sung by Odds’ Craig Northey and written by him and former Gin Blossoms member Jesse Valenzuela, the supremely catchy tune is heard at the start of the film and again during its extended closing credits, when Northey, Butt, and Ewanuick join the residents of “Dog River” (actually Roleau, Saskatchewan) for a joyful sing-along in the street that is a fitting on-set adios to one of Canada’s best-loved shows. That closing-credit sequence, which also includes bloopers and outtakes, is exclusive to this week’s theatrical screenings, though, so if you’re a hard-core Corner Gas freak, you’d best find a seat by Sunday.