Before signing their souls away for the least lucrative deal in television history, the Kids In The Hall spent years honing their craft in live performances. Though each member of the troupe went their separate ways following the end of their television series and the unpleasantness surrounding their feature film Brain Candy, they reunited for a six-week North American tour in the early months of 2000. The tour mixed new material and old, marking the first time they'd performed together since the release of Brain Candy in April 1996. Recognizing the significance of all of this, it was decided that the tour ought to be documented. A tiny camera crew followed the troupe as they made their way across the United States and Canada, though the five of them were unable to decide on a director to helm the project. Dave Foley assumed the directorial reins, sifting through three hundred hours of footage to assemble Same Guys, New Dresses.
The documentary spends most of its time focusing on the backstage antics of the Kids In The Hall. For instance, the group is concerned about the possible repercussions of Dave's impending LASIK surgery, fearing that he'll stumble about blindly on-stage and gouge out the eyes of the other four members. The neurotic Scott Thompson is the center of much of Same Guys, New Dresses. He decides to integrate a newly-acquired Sony Aibo into a monologue, though Scott is unable to bend the robot dog's iron will to have him perform as desired. At one point, he genuinely seems to have a complete mental breakdown when the Aibo won't "sleep". Scott also cancels an appearance at Late Night With Conan O'Brien after spilling a breakfast tray on a "seven million dollar couch" in someone else's hotel room, thankfully missing out on Conan detailing his sexual exploits with Peta Wilson. There are Spinal Tap-ish moments like the group's equipment arriving extremely late at one show, and Kevin fears for his life as the crowd grows increasingly restless after a two-hour delay. Though it's not the most comprehensive documentary, Same Guys, New Dresses is very entertaining, and Scott's misadventures with the Aibo alone could've easily been spun off into a feature film. My biggest complaint is that Mark and especially Bruce seem to be kept too far on the periphery. Still, the five strong personalities shine through, and there are some very funny moments.
Some of the sketches shown include "AT & Love Reunion", different versions of "Buddy Cole - The Year 2000", "Jesus 2000", "To Reg", and brief glimpses of "Sir Simon Milligan and Hecubus in: The Pit of Ultimate Darkness", "Running Faggot", "Chicken Lady's Date", "Cops!", "Head Crusher / Face Pincher", and "Old Friends". The length of these clips greatly varies, and only "To Reg" and "Jesus 2000" appear to be presented in their entirety. There are substantial portions of Buddy's monologue, and the group can be heard rehearsing portions of the theme from "Running Faggot" backstage as well. It's noted at one point that the Kids were better suited to performing than writing, and it would've been great to have more of that footage to judge the accuracy of that statement. Hopefully a full live release will follow after their current tour, which isn't coming close enough to the Southeast for me to see in person.
Though Same Guys, New Dresses did get a brief run on the festival circuit and debuted on Canadian television quite some time ago, this DVD release marks the first opportunity most American fans will have to give it a whirl. It's not quite as overflowing with supplemental material as its special edition label would seem to indicate, but this is a decent release that's sure to enjoy a spot on the shelves of many Kids In The Hall devotees.
Video: Continuing the onslaught of letterboxed, non-anamorphic DVDs from this week's reviews, Same Guys, New Dresses is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. Curiously, most of the bonus footage provided on this disc is 16x9-enhanced, obviously indicating that Video Service Corp. is capable of handling anamorphic widescreen. The documentary was shot on a variety of video equipment, and the quality is highly variable, depending on the untreated environment and the particular camera being used. The shots, given the nature of production, weren't meticulously lit or blocked to get the most ideal appearance possible. As a result, clarity and color saturation vary wildly. The quality of the presentation is a mild disappointment, though anamorphic enhancement aside, it is probably the extent of what could be expected with the available source material.
Audio: Same Guys, New Dresses was not recorded under the most ideal circumstances, and the audio quality isn't significantly better than what I would expect if I tried recording a discussion between myself and some friends using the mic on a camera several feet away. The conversations between the cast members are generally intelligible. Some of the stage footage is somewhat difficult to understand, particularly Scott's echo-laden second and third Buddy Cole monologues. The roar of the audience occasionally drowns out some of the troupe's deliveries, though this isn't frequently an issue given the limited amount of sketch material. Acceptable, but nothing beyond that.
Supplements: This special edition DVD release of Same Guys, New Dresses kicks off with a commentary with all five members of the Kids In The Hall. A number of celebrity guests drop by momentarily, including Jason Priestly, Mike Myers, Andy Richter, and South Park's Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Most of the guests are pretty useless. Jason Priestly, another actor who had documented a tour of a Canadian group (Barenaked Ladies in Barenaked In America), prompts some discussion from Dave about the process, though he disappears a bit too quickly. Mike Myers basically just says that he's a longtime Kids In The Hall fan and had, in fact, seen them backstage before! Truly exciting. Matt and Trey pretend that a discussion the Kids have over dinner is a hysterical sketch about a ride on a bus, and their sad stabs at humor fall completely flat. Andy Richter seems to stick around a few seconds more than any of the other folks that stop by, and he tosses out some meaningful comments in the portion when Kevin and Dave visit the Conan O'Brien show. Interestingly, no one seems to notice that Conan incorrectly refers to Kevin as "Tim" on the air. Most of the commentary, which is edited together from a couple of different sessions, consists of the group mocking whatever happens to be on-screen at the moment, especially at most anything Scott does. It's not quite as manic or funny as I would've hoped, but there are a number of good quips, particularly the notes about the idiosyncrasies of each member. Kevin remembers each stop in the tour when his arrival on-stage wasn't accompanied by applause, Mark has a thing for sandwiches and twitches a lot, Bruce has a tendency to mouth the lines of the other Kids' dialogue, Dave seems to always look weary, and Scott is hopelessly, hopelessly insane.
There are six snippets of bonus footage, and all but the full-frame clip of Kevin enjoying a bowl of soup are in anamorphic widescreen. Paul Bellini steps into the role of Hecubus and speaks backstage about his involvement with the Kids in the early days, including a band in which he sang with Scott Thompson. There's also a montage of each member chatting on the phone in the early days of the tour, Kevin feasting on soup, Bruce's encounter with his biggest fan (himself), and painful Discovery Channel-esque footage of Dave's ocular operation.
Rounding out the supplements are a still gallery and cast bios.
Conclusion: Same Guys, New Dresses is an entertaining backstage peek at the Kids In The Hall. For those who missed their past tour and are unable to attend their current trot across North America, it is probably their first glimpse of the Kids together since Brain Candy was released in 1996. Same Guys, New Dresses is not an essential purchase, and I'm not confident that this documentary will hold up well to repeat viewings. Die-hard Kids In The Hall buffs will find it well-worth adding to their DVD collections, but more casual fans may want to stick with a rental.
For information on the Kids In The Hall's 2002 "Tour Of Duty", visit Comedy Central's site. There's no indication yet if any episodes of the television series will be released on DVD, though the feature-length Brain Candy is slated to hit stores on July 16th courtesy of Paramount.