Chances are, even the most devoted Jelly Belly fan doesn't know the true history behind the world's most famous jellybean. Sure, there's an entire book from Jelly Belly covering the history of the product, but as scene towards the end of Costa Botes' touching, sad, and inspiring documentary "Candyman" shows, the man behind it all has been erased from corporate history, a victim of both his own generosity, kindness, naivety, as well as some rather unscrupulous businessmen. Before Ronald Reagan became the most famous name associated with the little sugary delights, it was David Klein who was the face and brains behind the bean.
Costa Botes, whose wonderful documentary covering the production of the "Lord of the Rings" films was left unseen by man due to studio demands and their own, far more exhaustive documentaries, returns to tell Klein's tale, both setting the record straight and introducing the world to one of the most kindhearted men ever profiled on film. While initially getting off to a shaky start, awkwardly shoehorning in an interview with Weird Al Yankovic, for reasons that appear to be solely related to having name recognition, Botes gets the Reagan connection out of the way right up front. Initially confusing from a structure format, a cheap politically charged jab from Yankovic at the former president's expense, kills much of the initial interest in the documentary. Fortunately, Botes quickly steers things back to the beginning and the rest of the feature is all focused on Klein.
In a very short timeframe (the feature runs just 76 minutes), David Klein will win you over with not only his eccentric behavior, but love of life and family, despite being arguably swindled out of a fortune. Botes lets Klein himself as well as his son Bert (an animator for Disney) recall the tale of how such an odd character invented a now ubiquitous confectionary treat in his home in the late 70s. It's a standard success story, gathering those involved in Klein's rise, from early partners, to one of the men involved in the turning point of both Klein's life and the life of the Jelly Belly name. Klein is very sympathetic almost instantly because he truly speaks as a man with no outward ill will to those who slighted him and few regrets. However, there is still a profound sadness surrounding the man that Botes captures in shots of Klein silently waiting for the next question, with the lingering memories just stirred up painfully fresh in his mind.
Thankfully, "Candyman" is never exploitive of Klein and once the critical moment of Klein losing the rights to Jelly Belly for a true pittance is covered, Botes devotes the remainder of the program to showing people David Klein, the man. It's often left to his son, Bert to talk about the unhappier days, when his father struggled to mask depression with laughs, but throughout all the sadness, David Klein's remarkable spirit and compassion shine through time and time again. It's impossible to not be inspired by a man who has lost millions, but still finds joy in life every day, from going to Disneyland with his son years earlier, purchasing all the balloons from a vendor and distributing them with Bert freely to other children, to an annual birthday tradition of renting a stocked ice cream truck and giving the treats away to anyone who approaches him.
If there's one negative to "Candyman," it's that getting to know David Klein and his family over the course of the program could end up making you hate Jelly Belly. That's definitely not the intent and I can't imagine David Klein wishing any ill will against something that makes people happy. The heart and message of the movie is David Klein, look for the best in life and never give up what makes you happy; for David Klein that's bringing joy to the lives of others, something we could all do more often.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer has a hot look to the colors while detail is in the average range. Aliasing is a very noticeable issue, especially in brighter exterior footage. Thankfully compression isn't an issue, as there's already a noticeable amount of digital noise present, and any other glaring errors would have made the very recent documentary look second-rate. It's easily watchable, but not a visual tour-de-force.
The English stereo audio track reproduces dialogue with crystal clarity and no distortion. The music soundtrack comes through moderately well, but with far less kick than one might expect.
Two commentary tracks provide a great secondary source of information, the first featuring director Costa Botes. The most interesting though is a track with Bert and David Klein, it can be unstructured at times, but does give both men a chance to reminisce about past events, including things not included in the feature. A selection of deleted scenes running around 25 minutes rounds things out.
A wholly inspiring tale of a largely unknown man behind a product famous the world over, Costa Botes' "Candyman" a sleeper hit waiting to be discovered. Whether or not you even like jellybeans, it's definitely worth seeking out, as David Klein the man is a fascinating subject even removed from his forgotten place in history. Highly Recommended.