A Whole Lotta Kids in the Hall

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The Rise and Fall of Gleemonex

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Mr. Showbiz
By Mary Brennan

Brain Candy, starring Kids in the Hall (David Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson); directed by Kelly Makin

Things are looking grim at Roritor Pharmaceuticals, where they haven't had a hit medication since the boss invented a cute little prescription called Stummies. The board wants to know why the bottom line is so sickly, why there's no "back-to-school drug," and no "International Women's Day drug." The smarmy, duplicitous C.E.O. needs a big pill, and quick, so he latches onto a medicine being developed by the meek, retiring scientist Dr. Chris Cooper. Dr. Chris's invention, a happy pill called Gleemonex, cures depression by inflating droopy-drawered patients with the dizzy euphoria of their happiest memory. Sure, it has a couple of disconcerting side effects, but that's the way it is with big science. After all, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

This is the setup for the stylish, cheeky, often hilarious Brain Candy, which stars the Canadian comedy troupe Kids in the Hall (David Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson). Kids in the Hall are probably best-known for their inconsistent but fitfully funny sketch series, which has become a staple of cable television. Brain Candy has all the earmarks of the TV show--the frumpy, earnest drag queens, the bewildering sexuality, the wholesome Canadian suburbanites gone berserk--but it manages to forge a cohesive story out of what might have been a jumble of wacky bits and pieces. Unlike so many of the shapeless, ill-conceived features that have limped to the big screen with the help of Saturday Night Live veterans, Brain Candy is better and stronger than the TV show that spawned it.

Unless you're a hard-core fan, it's hard to tell the Kids apart, but even fans will find it difficult here. In Brain Candy, each of them plays many roles (shades of Monty Python), and they slip in and out of drag from scene to scene. The sad, sincere old lady of one vignette is the energetic, park-cruising, closeted homosexual of the next encounter. Kelly Makin's direction is as eccentric and refreshing as the material. The story unfolds in a parade of happy preschool colors (pinks, yellows, oranges, greens), while the sly, energetic camera--never quite where you'd expect it to be--observes from odd angles.

The rise and fall of Gleemonex makes for a sharp spoof of pop culture and a society that revolves around quick fixes and instant gratification. "We beat penicillin! We beat penicillin!" crows the C.E.O. when he sees the weekend medication grosses (reported in a magazine called Drug Variety). Soon enough, though, he'll be getting a bitter taste of his own medicine. Brain Candy is clever, cheerfully cynical, wickedly subversive. It's a rare Pythonesque treat in this age of Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, and Pauly Shore. --Mary Brennan

(Rated R for nudity, language, and sex.)


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