Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy is the saddest hilarious comedy you'll ever see.
The film is brilliant, but its core is deeply sad.
But that's often the point of comedy. The laugh evoking surface makes the bitter pill of satire palatable. At least that's what comedy used to be before Saturday Night Live and its cinematic offspring denuded comedy of its edge.
It's not just that Saturday Night Live inspired movies and comedians are not funny. It's also that the show that supposedly re-defined satire for the second half of the century never really aspired to snipe at official culture. Sure, it would mock a string of presidents. That's to be expected. That's the least you can do and proclaim yourself "satire." But SNL never made us re-think the world, championed any intellectual causes, and didn't contribute any great characters to the comic culture except for a few bees and slackers and cable access hosts.
The Kids in the Hall (David Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, Scott Thompson) is a different story, even though the show featuring the Canadian quintet was produced by SNL's Lorne Michaels. Brain Candy is biting, merciless satire that still leaves marks, even seven years later.
The premise still has currency, though the film was originally released at the height of the Prozac craze. Chris Cooper, a lowly researcher for a big pharmaceuticals company discovers a formula that cures depression, by releasing the emotions of the victim's happiest moment and infusing the rest of their head with the good feelings (it's like a chemical version of the Japanese film Afterlife). The CEO of the company, which is suffering weak returns on its lead product, Stummies, is excited, and puts the product into production before full testing can be done. Then, when the drug takes off, he makes it available without prescription. That's when the world discovers that the drug, after continual use, puts its user in a coma, trapped in his or her happiest moment. How both the company and the world respond to this dire turn of events is an almost Brazilian in its sorrowful cleverness.
As is well known, the "Kids" play multiple characters, many of them females (one is even a dead-on parody of writer Fran Leibowitz, un-genderly called Baxter). They have, or had, been playing together for many years and work smoothly, almost invisibly with each other. Writing the show with collaborators, they have crafted a supreme satire on American values that is almost too hard to take.
Beneath the film's surface satire there is a strong story about a simple scientist who is almost destroyed by his taste of success (a little bit like Tim Robbins in The Hudsucker Proxy). But along the way the film parodies glum rock, gay culture, psychiatry, big business, and mass stupidity. A depressed rock star named Grivo (Bruce McCulloch) who plays at the Suicide Club before adoring fans, takes the drug and ends up composing "in the park," a song called "Happiness Pie" that goes "Happiness and sunbeams and cute little puppy dogs/These are things that I've seen with my heart." When he wins an award at the Grammies, he accepts while thanking his "fan base," before exiting the stage the wrong direction (he has to be redirected by a model). McCulloch also plays Cancer Boy, a bald kid in a wheelchair paraded out to show how kind corporations are. Cancer Boy, in his bow tie and girls watch , also wins a Grammy, for "Whistle When You're Low." The film is packed with in-jokes, such as Scott Thompson as German fashion model
Clemptor at the Grammies, gazing down at the audience with a distracted look, and as the Queen of England, approving the manufacture of the drug (since, as Lyndon LaRouche would say, the Royal Family is in charge of the international drug trade).
One of the best performances is McKinney as CEO Don Roritor, who with his gray hair and Japanese kimonos may be blend of Lorne Michaels and Michael Ovitz. "Were having a family bris," Don says when Chris interrupts him with dire news about the effects of the drug," my nephew is brissing. We're about to bris." But the whole cast is good, both in new characters, and in running characters from the show integrated into the story.
VIDEO: Paramount Home Video offers minimal supplemental material but a fine transfer of the wide screen (1.85:1) enhanced for wide screen televisions. The image appears flawless, and looks surprisingly good for a comedy (David A. Makin was the DP).
SOUND: Sound production is very good, and comes in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, DD 2.0, and French 2.0. The disc also offers English and Spanish subtitles.
MENUS: A static, silent menu offers 12 chapter scene selection for the 88 minute movie.
PACKAGING: This keep case bears the original poster on the front of the box, with stills from the film on the back. The label uses a portion of the poster for its image.
EXTRAS: Supplements are minimal, but then, what else needs to be said? A little info about the "Kids" for the uninitiated might help, or a feature highlighting some of the characters carried over from the show to the movie, but forget it, it's not here. The disc is for informed KITH fans only.