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Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy (1996)

by on 2011/07/09

“Good coffee, Marv.”

* * *

I see now that Brain Candy has gotten a raw deal. Yes, it’s somewhat conventional. Yes, it’s a bit uneven. Yes, it’s occasionally offensive. I myself have thought poorly of it based on my own memories.  Yet having rewatched it recently, I have to admit I really enjoyed it. Or perhaps my palate was reset by their more recent Death Comes to Town.

After a series of vignettes from various spots around Toronto, we begin the main narrative that will eventually bring them together. Head of Roritor Pharmaceuticals (Mark McKinney) is looking for the newest wonder drug. One of his scientists (Kevin McDonald) is pressured by an assistant (Dave Foley) into fast-tracking an antidepressant, which the marketing rep (Bruce McCulloch) dubs Gleemonex.

Gleemonex becomes a runaway success until, three months later, an early test subject (Scott Thompson) becomes catatonic. But, by then, does anyone care about plot anymore?

For that matter, does anyone care about the storyline per se? Fans approaching this feature with a history of watching their show will be hoping for another look at the Kids, their characters, and all kinds of satirical jabs. Like Canada’s slightly less surreal updating of Monty Python, the troupe play most of the characters, male and female alike, occasionally with multiple roles in the very same scene.

We get the white trash couple, Sid and Sharisse, the Police Department cops, the Croatian bigot cabbie and, regrettably, Cancer Boy. While every Kid acquits himself well, for me, the standout was McKinney. His portrayal of Don Roritor makes the entire affair worth checking out. Clearly a parody of the Kids’ mentor, Lorne Michaels, I began to imagine a Superman parallel/progression: if Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil is the mad scientist Luthor, then Brain Candy’s Roritor is the new businessman equivalent.

Other familiar faces appear, their cameos catching my eye, including Selma Blair (Hellboy), Nicole de Boer (Cube), and Brendan Fraser (The Mummy). (The storied Janeane Garofalo did not appear in the version I saw.) Best of all, we get the return of the betowelled one himself, Paul Bellini.

Production on the movie is solid, and decent for a comedic effort. I loved the main title credits, with their Atomic Age imagery and cool retro spy jazz, evoking the spirit of Shadowy Men. Parts of the soundtrack jumped out at me, like tracks by the Odds, Pell Mell, Stereolab, and Pizzicato Five. Craig Northey’s backing score runs the gamut from perfect lounge-y Muzak to dark and menacing synths. I especially enjoyed the music in a factory scene, recalling similar Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies moments.

I haven’t even gotten into how good it was to see some familiar landmarks, Sam the Record Man in particular, which doesn’t exist anymore. Still, the best excuse to watch it at all is to revisit the Kids in the Hall themselves. As a whole, Brain Candy isn’t hilarious stuff, but it is amusing, varied, ages well enough, and doesn’t overstay its welcome.

* * *

Rated 14A (Canada) / R (United States)

89 minutes

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