in the Hall's 'Candy' Brainy, Strained"
review is property of its writer and publication and is reprinted
here without permission.
By Michael Wilmington
virtuoso acting displays can become an end in themselves. And
that may be what's happened to "Brain Candy," an alternately brainy
and strained comedy that marks the first joint feature film of
the Canadian sketch group, Kids in the Hall.
24 roles among themselves -- in a sometimes clever science-fiction
satire about a happiness drug called Gleemonex that unravels the
world -- the Kids turn themselves into a five-man comic army.
But, in some ways, they lose the war.
story, co-written by four of the Kids, is a cautionary tale that
suggests you can't safely drug yourself into euphoria -- though
corporations may spend millions trying to brainwash you into thinking
the addled world of "Brain Candy," where Gleemonex is rushed onto
the market before adequate testing to save the company from financial
catastrophe, happiness itself is dangerous. Joy can be a sign
of brainless sappy conformity, bad easy-listening pop ballads,
corporate propaganda or pathetic self-delusion. Most of "Brain
Candy's" characters smile continuously, faking it or lost in their
own dream lands. Maybe that's why the movie is narrated by a grouch:
a pedestrian-hating emigre cabbie played by Mark McKinney.
you look, there's another Kid: Kevin McDonald as Chris Cooper,
the likable young scientist who invents Gleemonex; Mark McKinney
as Dan Roritor, the pharmaceutical tycoon who exploits it; David
Foley as Roritor's brown-nosing yuppie yes-man Marv; Bruce McCulloch
as a slimy marketing whiz named Cisco; and Scott Thompson as a
closeted gay suburbanite who keeps getting caught in vice raids.
McKinney pops up again as a smiley lady talk-show host, McCulloch
as Chris' scientist girlfriend Alice, Thompson as a lovable grandmother
named Mrs. Hurdicure who's an early Gleemonex casualty.
an impressive display. The Kids leap across age and sexual boundaries
(though few ethnic ones). And, even if you're familiar with their
gigs on Comedy Central, their range here may surprise you. Especially
McKinney and Thompson, who take on six parts apiece.
are they spreading themselves around too much? A lot of us fondly
remember Alec Guinness as all eight murder victims in 1949's "Kind
Hearts and Coronets," or Peter Sellers' triple de force in "Dr.
Strangelove" or Jerry Lewis' many split-personality '60s movies.
But what if those shows had consisted of nothing but multiple
a repetitive, incestuous quality to some of "Brain Candy," and
when real women show up in crowd scenes, they make some of the
guys in female parts look like drag queens. After a while, you
begin to long for a new Kid. Or a different Hall.
Candy" does have one first-class comic performance: McKinney,
the tall Kid who won a 1990 CableAce award and graduated in 1995
to "Saturday Night Live," wrings delightful malice from his role
as drug company CEO Don Roritor. A tight-lipped, natty, bespectacled,
deranged tyrant, striding imperiously through sets that remind
you of "The Hudsucker Proxy," McKinney's Roritor is a stinging
portrait of corporate paranoia, with Foley's James Spader-esque
Marv a good foil. And Thompson's hapless Mrs. Hurdicure is sometimes
funny and touching.
maybe the boiling zaniness of sketch comedy can't easily be maintained
at feature-movie length -- despite the examples of Monty Python
and the Marx Brothers.
Candy" director Kelly Makin guided many Kids in the Hall TV segments.
But he also perpetrated "National Lampoon's Senior Trip" (co-starring
McDonald), one of the worst movies I saw last year. "Brain Candy"
is much better than "Senior Trip" -- but that's no brain-taxing
achievement. There are TV real estate commercials that are better,
and funnier, than "Senior Trip."
"Brain Candy" has lots of rubber-faced versatility and a sharp
message: Laugh and the world laughs with you (as long as you're
a Kid in the Hall); frown and you may survive the media and the
CANDY" (star) (star)
Directed by Kelly Makin; written by Norm Hiscock, Bruce McCulloch,
Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, Scott Thompson; photographed by
David A. Makin; edited by Christopher Cooper; production designed
by Gregory P. Keen; music by Craig Northey; produced by Lorne
Michaels. A Paramount Pictures release; opens Friday. Running
time: 1:29. MPAA rating: R. Language, sensuality, nudity, violence.
Marv/Psychiatrist/ Suicidal Businessman/New Guy................David
Alice/Grivo/Cisco/ Cop/White Trash Man.....................Bruce
Chris Cooper/Dad/Doreen..................Kevin McDonald
Dan Roritor/Simon/Nina/Cabbie/White Trash Woman/German Patient..........Mark
Wally/Mrs. Hurdicure/Baxter/ Malek/Clemptor/The Queen...........Scott
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