Brain Candy

My Rating:

Sweet jokes, heady laughs, and great comic acting make this a fine satirical specimen

Bitable Bytes:
"The freshest, funniest, most consistent comedy troupe!"
"Genuinely Good!"
"...A Winner!"
"Opportunity to Laugh!"

What to do while watching:
Purge your e-mail inbox of prescription-drug spam.

What to eat while watching:
Pop corn with nutritional yeast. Yum!

The Kids in the Hall were funny. I think they were the freshest, funniest, most consistent comedy troupe of the nineties. The five guys from Canada were produced by humor maven Lorne Michaels, but unlike some of Michaels other projects, The Kids never got bogged down in their own popularity and didn't stagnate to the same degree as the hip-yet-tired Saturday Night Live. And, The Kids' film is genuinely good, unlike such one-joke torture films as A Night at the Roxbury and Superstar.

Perhaps that's because instead of seeing a actor dress up as a goofy character and act through an entire script playing on that one character's quirks, each of the five Kids plays at least a half-dozen roles. They play every characterization for its greatest humor value, and then they appear as a new character. Roxbury (reviewed in my archives) has Chris Kattan and another SNL regular as two head-bobbing disco guys, and the movie is a ninety-minute head-bobbing joke. The Kids never get like that.

The plot, though not the tightest of tales, is substantial enough to permit each of the five to shine--that's Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney, Kevin McDonald, Dave McFoley and Scott "McMuffin." Has anyone besides me noticed Scott Thompson's vague resemblance to Barbara Streisand?

The story begins in a laboratory underneath the zillion-dollar headquarters of Roritori Pharmaceuticals. There, wild-haired, wild-eyed Dr. Chris Cooper (McDonald) stumbles across the chemical solution to depression. His fellow scientists (McKinney, Thompson and McCulloch, the latter two in drag) set out to test this amazing drug on a depressed old lady (Thompson). The drug, working by the laws of movie-physics, enters the brain, finds the happiest memory therein, and replays the scene and attendant emotions in the eyes of the patient. Sure enough, Thompson goes back to a Christmas dinner with her son (Foley), and begins to smile. The drug is a winner!

Meanwhile, on the top floor of the skyscraper, the company's owner Don Roritori (McKinney) is conducting his board meeting. And the sales are down. He tells his staff that they'll need to make some cutbacks, then asks his toadying assistant (Foley) how the cutbacks are going.

"You mean the ones you just now mentioned?" asks Foley incredulously.

"Yes, those," answers Roritori.

"Oh, we're on them, sir!" says Foley.

And so, they raid the labs, having scientist defend their research. Several scientists' projects are cut including one (McCulloch) whose pill is designed to give worms to ex-girlfriends. When Dr. Cooper is called up the boardroom, his is pressured into saying that his anti-depression drug is ready for market, though it has only started being tested (on such celebrities as Brendan Fraser). On his next visit to the boardroom, Dr. Cooper meets marketing whiz Cisco (McCulloch), who says the pill will be called "Gleemonex" and that it will be orange (in spite of the fact that it's blue).

McCulloch, the mousy lab assistant with a secret crush on Dr. Cooper, tries to overlook the danger and moral quandary of unleashing an untested drug on the public; but soon Dr. Copper is swept up in the gratitude of Roritori. He's wined, dined, laid, and made into a celebrity by appearing on McKinney-in-drag's talk show. He gets to go to fancy parties and meet "Cancer Boy" (McCulloch).

All seems to be going fine until Thompson-as-old-lady goes into a sort of happiness coma. Then, and only then, does Dr. Cooper realize what he's done. A combination press-conference/circus ensues, reigning chaos down on everyone. And the film ends abruptly soon afterward.

There are many highlights and much opportunity to laugh. Even the throwaway scenes are funny. McCulloch, for instance, has only one scene as the long-haired red-neck guy who was a regular on the Kids' television show; but in it, he delivers one of his funniest lines to McKinney-in-drag's white-trash party-girl. She says, "I can't believe you slept with my best friend and then came and told me about it," and he says, "Well, hey, don't shoot the messenger!"

I'd seen this film soon after it came out in 1996. This second viewing revealed many more humorous bits that I missed the first time, and even the jokes I remembered distinctly where not tarnished by the repetition. The characters are so distinctive and the plot so exaggerated as to be as unforgettable as much of Monty Python's stuff. A cult classic is Scott Thompson's character, Wally, the homosexual in denial who, under the influence of Gleemonex, comes out in a spontaneous Broadway-musical interlude.

It's a good comedy film. Strangely, though, I'm not sure I'd recommend it to my wife. I think there are some people, she among them, who simply wouldn't appreciate it. Anyone with high sensitivity to issues of tact and low-tolerance of political incorrectness may find discomfort in this film, not that it is hugely offensive by any means. I consider myself at least somewhat consciousness-raised, and still laughed quite a bit, in part because I feel that the satire was never malicious.

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For your collection: Brain Candy (DVD), Brain Candy (VHS)

Gooden's Listening To: Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet: Savvy Show Stoppers

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