Kids In The Hall: Brain Candy
with Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald
Directed by Kelly Makin
Written by Norm Hiscock, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald
by William Ham
Comedy is a drug. How often have you heard the phrase “I could use a good laugh,” spoken in the same tone one might use to voice a craving for a cigarette, a cup of coffee, or a Rasta-sized spliff? Laughter is an altered state, a potent pain-killer and a cheap euphoric. It’s also a tough addiction to maintain – easy to swallow in the capsule form of sitcoms and sketch programs, it risks dilution once you up the dosage to movie-size. (Witness the vast majority of SNL-derived big-screeners: dopey in the wrong sense of the word.) Now into the breech come the Kids in the Hall, perhaps the most effective yuk-pharmacists of our time and the first comedy troupe since Monty Python to try to fit their full potency into a bigger vial. After a two-year wait, Brain Candy has finally been MPAA-approved and is available over the ticket counter. And if you’re a Kids junkie like I am, it’s well worth ingesting.
The biggest surprise in Brain Candy is that, in an era when most movie comedies’ premises are thinner than the celluloid they’re printed on, the Kids have managed to develop a full-fledged narrative to hang their multi-character comedy on, something even Python had trouble doing (Life of Brian notwithstanding). As the film opens, everybody in the country is unhappy, up to and including Don Roritor (Mark McKinney), the head of a mass-market pharmaceutical empire. Roritor needs a new drug to foist on the public, which he finds in Gleemonex, an experimental anti-depressant developed by idealistic scientist Chris Cooper (Kevin McDonald), which freezes subjects’ happiest memories and leaves them in a constant state of well-being. It’s rushed onto the market, and soon enough, everyone falls under its spell, including a family man in an advanced state of homosexual denial (Scott Thompson) and a diminutive Danzig-in-overalls-type gloom-rocker (Bruce McCulloch). Cooper is suddenly a celebrity and happiness reigns over all. That is, until the side effects begin to kick in…
Since I’m a nice guy, I’m not gonna give any of the gags away (though I will say that the production number that climaxes the gay subplot is probably the highlight). I’ll just pronounce the Kids’ first big-screen experiment a success. The silly/satirical tone suits their absurdist m.o. quite handily, the characterizations come off both broad and refined, and they wisely avoid reprising too many of their old TV characters, opting for a fresh approach. (The soundtrack, featuring such luminaries as Guided by Voices, Stereolab, and, of course, Shadowy Men on A Shadowy Planet, is also a refreshing change from the standard dolt-rock flick-fare.) You may well come away from this film pondering the nature of fame in our society, our collective desire for artificial solutions to real problems, and why Dave Foley, who, of the five, looks prettiest in drag, didn’t play any female characters. (Worried about our image, are we, Davey?) I kinda doubt that Brain Candy will go down well with the Dumb and Dumber crowd, but Kidsmaniacs and other fans of edgy humor will find this (dare I say it?) just what the doctor ordered.