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Kids In The Hall: Brain Candy
Release Date(s)1996 (June 25, 2013)
Studio(s)Paramount (Warner Archive)
Throughout the five-year run of their television series, Canada’s Kids In The Hall emerged as the heirs apparent to the inspired, surreal sketch comedy of Monty Python. Like Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Kids In The Hall was smart, subversive, irreverent and hilarious. So when the Kids embarked on their first feature film, hopes were high that we’d get another Holy Grail or Life Of Brian. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out that way.
The group had become fractured and tensions ran so high that Dave Foley quit the group during the writing of the script. The movie suffers for it, coming across as far more scattershot than it should. But in its best moments, and there are quite a few of them, Brain Candy offers moments of true inspiration and today even seems ahead of its time.
Kevin McDonald plays, among other roles, Dr. Chris Cooper, the inventor of a powerful and effective new anti-depressant. The drug is prematurely rushed onto the market by Don Roritor (Mark McKinney), the head of the pharmaceutical company desperate for a new money-making pill. Everything seems great until Dr. Cooper pays a visit to one of his first test subjects, Mrs. Hurdicure (Scott Thompson). Turns out that the drug eventually and inevitably puts its users into a coma, locked inside their own heads and reliving their happiest memory.
The biggest area where Brain Candy stumbles is in its casting. In both Holy Grail and especially Life Of Brian, Graham Chapman unexpectedly proved to be the ideal candidate to play the leading role. Here, the logical choice to play Dr. Cooper would seem to be Dave Foley. But his unwillingness to participate gave the role to Kevin McDonald and he seems uncomfortable with the burden of carrying the story. He has some fine moments but he’d have been better suited to character roles.
The other Kids all shine, especially McKinney’s hilarious turn as Don Roritor, Bruce McCulloch as the gleefully offensive Cancer Boy, and Scott Thompson as closeted homosexual Wally Terzinsky. It’s also impressive that the group seemed to take seriously the fact that they were making a movie. This doesn’t look like an episode of their TV show blown up to a bigger aspect ratio. It’s a fully-realized cinematic effort with some truly excellent visuals. Compared with most other comedies, Brain Candy practically looks like an epic.
Warner Archive has brought Brain Candy back into print and the disc looks to be pretty close to identical to Paramount’s original 2002 DVD. It’s a high-quality anamorphic transfer with decent if not mind-blowing 5.1 sound. As with the Paramount disc, there are no extras. It would be fantastic to see a special edition of this that includes the much-bootlegged alternate ending and other deleted scenes. But the Kids reunion tour documentary Same Guys, New Dresses revealed that Brain Candy remains a sore subject among the group, so the odds are slim that anybody will be very eager to revisit it.
For me, Brain Candy is one of those “almost” movies. It never achieves greatness but it gets close enough that you can sense the movie it could have been. I would never recommend it to someone who’s never seen an episode of Kids In The Hall but if you’re already a fan, there’s plenty here to enjoy.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke