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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 09.10.11] Canada movie review documentary

Year: 2011
Director: Jay Cheel
Writer: Jay Cheel
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

One of the less exciting parts of getting your pool ready for summer is taking the cover off but if you're Ralph Zavadil, removing the pool cover is material for a great stunt. Beauty Day opens on a nice spring day with Ralph climbing a ladder and jumping into the middle of his pool in an effort to remove the cover. The stunt ends badly. Ralph doesn't tie off the ladder correctly and when jumping off, the ladder wobbles back and forth and Ralph ends up bouncing on concrete before landing awkwardly in the pool with the camera running for the entire ordeal.

Ralph wasn't crazy, he was and is… different.

Best known to his fans as "Cap'n Video," Ralph had a television show on public access during the 90s and his shtick was making people laugh by performing crazy stunts. Years before the Jackass crew started electrocuting their balls, Ralph was setting his face on fire in an attempt at the instant shave. It was a one man show with Ralph conceiving, performing, recording and editing the entire show. The pool cover accident made him a TV sensation with calls from all sorts of places requesting the use of his footage and while some would be sceptical about letting people poke fun at themselves, Ralph's intent was always to make people laugh and the fact one of his stunts was getting international attention was just icing on the cake. Soon after the accident the Cap'n returned to his shenanigans until an Easter themed show brought animal rights knocking and the show was eventually taken off the air.

A collection of clips of Cap'n Video's classic moments tied in with a voice over of Ralph would have been an entertaining enough documentary but nothing particularly new as many of Ralph's stunts can be found by a bit of digging on YouTube but Beauty Day takes the time to not only introduce us to the man behind the antics but to find a way into his life. We see the moments that defined the man: the childhood cancer which produced a young man unwilling to do anything half way, the dead end job, the drinking, the romantic relationship that spanned a number of years in Ralph's Cap'n days, the discovery of a teenaged daughter that could have changed his entire life and the friendships that are still with him today. It's a portrait of a man who may seem a bit crazy to the rest of the world but who understands not only who he is but what is truly important in his life. Many spend decades trying to figure this stuff out but Ralph realized it early on and had the guts to pursue the one thing he truly loved: entertaining others (and in the process, undoubtedly, amusing himself).

Though his small screen success is long behind him, Ralph feels the itch to resurrect the madman who would do anything for a laugh and much of Beauty Day's second half follows Ralph as he puts together a 20th anniversary show. This time, he's not doing it alone, he has his best friend Robert help him out. It's not even clear if anyone will even get to see the show but the duo give it their all and watching these men set-up and execute stunts is like watching kids at play. It's heart warming and sweet and I was struck by how rare a sight it is.

I went into Beauty Day with the expectation that director Jay Cheel (directing his first full length documentary) would introduce the man who brought gross-out humour to a small part of Canada but I left with a much more profound though. At one point towards the end of the film, Robert says that everyone should have a friend like Ralph and I couldn't agree more because Ralph is exactly the type of person I aspire to be: happy. If we all aspired to be a little more like Ralph, every day would be a beauty day.

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Ralph Zavadil (9 years ago) Reply

Thank-you Marina for actually getting it, for many reviewers have focused on the stunts that I did and let the deeper parts go to the wayside. I really hope that more people like you get to see the movie for Jay Cheel has really turned my Shyte into Shinola. Have a Beauty Life!

Ralph Zavadil.

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