Kids on the Screen:
Brain Candy vaults the Kids in the Hall into movies"
review is property of its writer and publication and is reprinted
here without permission.
the college hill independent
By Eric Raskin
are two basic types of comedy: safe and dangerous. These words
don't necessarily reflect subject matter, as merely dealing with
racy topics does not make for comedy of the dangerous variety.
This distinction is all about delivery and risk, whether the comedy
is safely packaged and handed to the audience or dangerously hidden
in the corner, waiting for the audience unwrap it themselves.
Examples of safe comedy would be Friends , or The Fresh Prince
of Bel-Air, not necessarily bad shows, but not very challenging
shows either--sometimes you can see an "Uncle Phil is fat and
bald" joke being set up about three minutes before the punchline
actually arrives. On the other hand, there is the ultimate example
of dangerous comedy: The Kids in the Hall.
their six-year run on HBO, CBS, and Comedy Central, the Toronto-born
Kids (Dave Foley, Bruce McCullough[sic], Kevin McDonald, Mark
McKinney, and Scott Thompson) almost never made it easy for their
viewers. There were sketches where everyone was essentially the
straight man and nobody was really trying to be funny. There were
sketches without a straight man where it was almost impossible
to find the humor beneath the clutter of nonsense. Hell, there
were sketches that didn't have a punch-line. But once you've seen
the Kids enough, it becomes clear that that, in itself, is the
punch-line. It is no easy task becoming a Kids in the Hall fan,
but once you do, you skip right over the label of "fan" and straight
into the role of "addict."
abstract, unsafe comedy just doesn't sell all that well to the
masses. So when it was announced that the Kids were doing a wide-release
full-length film, most Kids addicts initially feared a sell out--that
the Kids couldn't possibly expect to please the Hollywood execs'
hunger for money with a 90-minute version of one of their outlandish
sketches. But to the delight of their admirers, that's exactly
what they did, although whether the movie, Brain Candy, will be
a box-office windfall has yet to be seen.
Brain Candy is, to those who need justification for their comedy,
a satirical view of both the corporate world and of the human
desire to eliminate depression. But to those who just need laughter
as justification, the film chronicles the hilarious story of a
young scientist forced by his project's funders to market his
anti-depressant before he finishes testing it. The varied effects
the drug has on people from all walks of life form the humorous
sequences of the film.
plays the scientist, Chris Cooper, with incomparable sheepishness,
while McKinney is amazing as Don Roritor, the corporate kingpin
who is feared by all his underlings and pitied by all the viewers.
If McKinney's Roritor sounds a little like The Simpsons' Mr. Burns,
then Foley's wonderfully dry Marv is a lot like Smithers, only
without the insinuation of gay love for his boss.
plays Alice, one of Dr. Cooper's lab assistants who is in fact
in love with the man who created the happiness pill, and Thompson
has two main roles--elderly drug guinea pig Mrs. Hurdicure and
homosexual-in-denial family man Wally. All told, the Kids play
more than 40 characters between them, and it is this constant
barrage of new but familiar faces which, in conjunction with a
surprisingly well-sustained plot, makes Brain Candy work so well
for anyone who appreciates the Kids' brand of humor.
Within the subplots, however, the Kids really get to shine in
something more closely resembling their sketch-comedy form. Wally's
tale begins with his wife returning home from work and asking
their children where their father is, only to hear the teenage
brother and sister reply straight-faced, "He's upstairs masturbating
to gay porn." After taking the anti-depressant, Wally comes to
terms with his sexuality and his family cheers when he runs downstairs
to tell them what they obviously already knew.
Candy is, to those who need justification for their comedy, a
satirical view of both the corporate world and of the human desire
to eliminate depression.
also shines as Cancer Boy, a dying wheelchair-bound youth who
goes from rejoicing in meeting Cooper, the inventor of his life-improving
drug, to eventually becoming a pop star nominated for video music
awards. Cancer Boy's voice is almost identical to the one McCullough
used for years in playing annoying youngster Gavin on the show.
McCullough also semi-reprises his recurring role as a metal-head
by playing a Jim Morrison-like frontman who alienates his fans
when the happiness drug leads him to write "Happiness Pie," an
acoustic ballad which earns this character some video music awards
as well. McCullough was always the funniest Kid, the one capable
of making people laugh by just walking leisurely down the street,
and he clearly hasn't lost a step.
In fact, the other Kids seem to have gained a step, as Thompson,
McKinney, and McDonald, are all more consistently funny in Brain
Candy than they ever were on The Kids in the Hall. Foley, busy
with his NBC hit NewsRadio, was the only Kid who didn't co-write
the film, which may explain why he was given the least amount
of on-screen attention. But, then again, Foley excels at understatement
(see the scene in which, as Mrs. Hurdicure's son, he visits his
mother for Christmas and, with no inflection, remarks, "So, I
hear Dad died"), making him the one Kid who can be out of the
spotlight and still seem as integral to the film as the other
all is said and done, though, Brain Candy is a film which most
moviegoers simply won't be able to digest. If you've never really
seen The Kids in the Hall, it seems unlikely that you could really
enjoy this picture. It has its moments of safe comedy which Joe
Ticketbuyer may laugh at, but, for the most part, the jokes are
dangerous and not inherently funny if you don't already feel like
the Kids are your five best friends. However, if your best pals
are named Dave, Bruce, Kevin, Mark, and Scott, then Brain Candy
is an absolute can't-miss comedy which knows and respects its
true target audience.
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