Friday April 12, 1996
Like Monty Python's Flying Circus, the Kids in the Hall have achieved their widest popularity posthumously. Having first hit the airwaves in 1989 over Canada's CBC, the troupe moved on to HBO, then to the more accessible Comedy Central, where their old shows now enjoy multiple daily showings and seem to win converts with the same frequency. But they don't make new TV shows anymore; the members have moved on to individual projects. They may exist in the future only as a movie-making unit.
Which is bad for committed couch potatoes, but OK for moviegoers, especially if the results resemble "Kids in the Hall Brain Candy," the first indication in some time that movie comedy can be snatched from the slavering jaws of complete idiocy. It's not that Kids don't flirt with idiocy. It's just not complete.
They indulge themselves in social commentary (offhanded), sexual banter (heavy-handed) and media-bashing (backhanded) while exploiting the other traits they share with the Pythons--which include a fondness for playing in drag, a contempt for narrative boundaries, a general flair for the outrageous and, most importantly, a mean streak. The Kids are mean, but meanness, along with brevity, is the soul of modern wit.
The ostensible story line of "Brain Candy" is a bit like a flatbed truck in the Tournament of Roses Parade: It gets the ornamentation from here to there. While working a number of their TV characters into the mix (like White Trash Man and White Trash Woman, played by Bruce McCulloch and Mark McKinney) they tell the story of research scientist Chris Cooper (Kevin McDonald) whose funding is going to be cut by the ruthless CEO Don Roritor (McKinney) unless he releases his team's new drug, the ultimate antidepressant. Dubbed Gleemonex by satanic marketing director Cisco (McCulloch), the pill is a huge success--except that it eventually causes a coma-like state in which the patient keeps reliving his or her happiest moment (and what constitutes the happier moments is one of the movie's darker jokes). Cooper wants a recall; Roritor, assisted by yes man Marv (David Foley), wants profits.
Gleemonex cuts a vicious swath through the culture. Grivo (McCulloch), a heavy-metal doomsayer, turns into a flower child; Wally (Thompson), the world's most repressed homosexual, comes out of the closet in a musical hallelujah that recalls something out of "Bye Bye Birdie." Cooper becomes a media darling, and a guest of TV talk host Nina Bedford (McKinney), whose biggest question is "How big is your house?"
"Brain Candy" takes few prisoners. Cops, class, corporate ethics (an oxymoron?) all get trashed; there are suicide jokes, birth-defect jokes, Queen Elizabeth sight gags and a visit from Cancer Boy (McCulloch), who thanks Cooper for creating Gleemonex. "There's no hope for me," he says, "but my parents are on it." No, "Brain Candy" is not for kids. But adults, especially those cursed with a twisted, jaded or perverse sense of humor, will find plenty in it to laugh about.
Kids in the Hall Brain Candy, 1996. R, for language and sexual humor. A Lakeshore Entertainment production, released by Paramount Pictures. Director Kelly Makin. Producer Lorne Michaels. Screenplay by Norm Hiscock, Scott Thompson, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney. Cinematographer David A. Makin. Editor Christopher Cooper. Costumes Delphine White. Music Craig Northey. Production design Gregory P. Keen. Art director Paul Denham. Set designer Mike Harris. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. David Foley as Marv/psychiatrist/New Guy. Bruce McCulloch as Cisco/Grivo/Alice/Cancer Boy. Kevin McDonald as Chris/Chris' dad/Doreen. Mark McKinney as Roritor/Nina Bedford/cabby. Scott Thompson as Wally/Mrs. Hurdicure/the Queen.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun