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Same Guys, New Dresses (2001)

by on 2012/09/29

“Hey, that made almost no sense.
Tell me more!”

* * * *

Same Guys, New Dresses is a chronicle of the Kids in the Hall, touring their Canadian weirdness across America in the year 2000. A mix of footage both on- and backstage, it’s directed by Kid David Foley (The Wrong Guy) — the one who cracks up so easily and looks eerily attractive in drag — which is ironic, I think, given his heartfelt opposition to the other Kids and their craft (Brain Candy).

Onstage, there are no elaborate sets, only projected backdrops, makeup, costumes, and props. Old fans are offered fresh material, or updated twists on the familiar, as we reunite with many of their characters: Cathy and Kathy, Tanya the Temp, Simon Milligan and Hecubus, Buddy Cole, the Chicken Lady, and those fast-talking infomercial con-men.

Intercut with individual skits are sometimes-related backstage bits. We may see the adjacent skit being practiced, or a background incident to place it in different light. Or just scattershot days in their various lives: makeup lessons, promotions and publicity, conversation, arguments, shifting politics, and an awkward dinner meeting to plot their future.

There’s a whole lot here to remind us of This Is Spinal Tap, with all the personal eccentricities so extreme as for us to wonder how much of it is real. The director himself is not above the quagmire: Dave schedules elective surgery the day of a performance without warning.

For his part, Scott demands the involvement of his “child” — a robotic toy dog — and then skips out on a Conan O’Brien appearance. Kevin (and maybe Bruce too) don’t want to travel with the others. And Mark, apparently alone and unheard, works desperately to unite them.

A recurring motif is a clip of a man pacing outside the theatre, singing the song “Tainted Love” to queued-up fans. On one hand it seems to telegraph group’s counter-cultural and gay-friendly roots. (Yes, I’m aware Soft Cell was doing a cover, and don’t start me on Marilyn Manson.) On the other, its lyrics strikingly encapsulate the group’s interpersonal tensions.

But I can’t even pretend to be critical about the Kids in the Hall. (Oh wait, perhaps I can.) Foley’s given us an inside look at a mess of chaotic genius, often sabotaged by their own egos and hubris. It’s a fascinating experience to watch them all devolve, then seemingly spontaneously, conjure magic together onstage. Their love might indeed be tainted . . . and yet, when they’re taking a bow in the end, clasping hands, as their theme song plays, I’m ready to line up for a ticket and see them again.

* * * *

Not Rated

86 minutes

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