It's definitely a Maritimes thang. I've been forced to play it by relatives in Dalhousie, and by friends in Digby. Unfortunately, I've managed to erase those painful memories, so I couldn't tell you how it was actually played although I remember having the impression that the rules SEEMED to be made up as we went along. That being said, the Digby version and the Dalhousie version seemed identical.
Some local guy actually wrote a book with the official rules. I didn't buy it cause its a waste of fifteen bucks. Its not even a maritimes game really more for just Cape Breton. I go to school on the mainland (ha) and haven't met anyone yet who can play. What's really funny is when they hold the WORLD championship, in Sydney NS, at my old High School's gym.
I admit, I've still yet to see "Big Trouble." But I'm surprised that you found it to be so bad - the book was hilarious. Then again, The Firm and Hannibal were decent books that turned into not-so-decent movies.