When it first was announced that FUBAR II was going to open the 2010 Midnight Madness slate, I immediately thought it was a terrible idea. I’d not yet seen the original, but I knew it looked like little more than drunk prattling by a bunch of hicks from out west, a SPINAL TAP without good tunes and impeccable performances made on the cheap.

In prep for the fest, and my faith in Colin’s previous choices driving me, I delved into the original. While I get why it’s beloved by a certain segment, for those of us sober during the afternoon it’s a trifle of a film, fun to be sure, but hardly begging for a remake. Just how much time would we need to spend with these idiots before we get the gist of how awful they are? Hell, I spent 5 years in High School with stoner metalhead meatballs like these, why should I subject myself to another 90 minutes?

Colour me entirely wrong – what’s surprising, nay, SHOCKING about FUBAR II is not just that it’s a fine addition to the MM lineup, is a HELL of a good Canadian film. Sure, there’s a caveat there, but I’m frankly shocked – they took a project that by no means was being begged for, topped the original by a mile, and crafted a charming, warm character piece that corrects nearly everything that was clunky and amateur about the original.

Sure, there’s the Pilsner and the flannel, but this time we set these characters into the genuinely batshit hellscape that is the Tar Sands projects. By having our heroes move to Fort McMurray is a slice of genius, as we see these idiots making hundreds of dollars an hour with nothing to spend it on save beer and women. There is a delightful, almost duplicitous social commentary going on here – a scene where we see a direct correlation between celebrating the drop in gas prices used to fill a giant (financed) truck, only to see the direct consequence with unemployment, is but one example. This is a thinking person’s dumb person movie, and while fart jokes abound, there’s a level of insight and (dare I say it) maturity to the proceedings that makes for quite a ride.

Even the performances are far less affected, the whole thing feeling more, well, real than the previous production. Even the melancholy bits that demonstrate responsibility remains ribald and silly, but the jokes, even the stupid ones, never feel cheap.

From what easily could have been a one-note sequel, FUBAR II demonstrates that a maturity of filmmaking and character development can in fact elevate this type of material into something quite special. FUBAR isn’t just one of the best MM openings ever, it’s one of the best films at this year’s festival. I’m as shocked as anyone, but pleasantly – it couldn’t happen to a better group of drunk, idiotic metalheads. Now, guys, don’t fuck it up and try to make a part III, quit while you’re this far ahead.