I’ve always appreciated the Kids In The Hall. They were probably among the first of the sketch comedy troupes to break out with a TV show. Back before Comedy Central started mining everybody imaginable for a show.
And by appreciated, I mean I didn’t follow the TV show too closely when it was on the air – I mean, I was aware of the popular sketches and found them funny and all, but just never really knew much else about it. What I did know was they were edgy and different and reminded us Americans that – besides their chief exports hockey and rock bands – Canada still delivered good comedy.
So, I caught this movie when it had already entered the home video market. Maybe I could blame Lorne Michaels (who exec produced the Kids In The Hall TV show) in part for having a track record of throwing every SNL character into a full-length movie to see what sticks. I think my thought was “sure, they’re funny in short segments – but a whole movie?”
Fine, I was wrong.
Brain Candy is one of those movies that really requires repeat viewings for the full effect to wash over you. I saw it once – It was good. Saw it again – wow, I get it. And so forth until I have now seen it many times.
There’s a few levels to what you will see when you watch this movie. It’s densely populated with many of the types of characters the show was acclaimed for – each with a part to play in the story. Comedians Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson known collectively as The Kids In the Hall continue their tradition of dressing in drag and playing completely astute character studies to the point of hilarity – not so much because they’re being goofy but because they are being a bit too real. You know that person: the phony talk show host, the sycophantic Yes Man, the brooding anti-rockstar, the sardonic cabbie of unknown descent… the list really does go on and on.
So, you can watch on that level and enjoy the wackiness. On another level, the main story is a rather biting satire of Big Business centered around a drug company called Roritor Pharmaceutical.
We enter the story through a research lab run by Dr. Chris Cooper (Kevin McDonald), who is on the verge of a big break-through discovery: A drug that will make you “happy”.
To fully explain this movie would be futile, but let’s just say Dr. Chris Cooper and his team are pressured to release the drug before it has been fully tested. Roritor Pharmaceuticals big cheese, Don Roritor (Mark McKinney), needs a drug right away. They didn’t have an International Women’s Day drug, so of course, the pressure is on. Now, the truly absurd comes into play when they tell the story like they’re putting out a new Fall clothing line or something.
As the inventor of the drug, Dr. Chris Cooper quickly gets thrown into superstardom as the company’s newest hit, Gleemonex, takes off – even beating penicillin! He’s invited to talk shows and fancy parties and hilarity ensues. That is, until people taking the drug experience a side effect.
Directed by Kelly Makin (Mickey Blue Eyes), a frequent director of Kids In The Hall segments for the original series, the movie has a distinct stylized feel with sweeping camera shots and cartoon-y transitions that keep us moving through the story as we check in on the many characters and their lives.
While not a huge hit when released, Brain Candy has grown into a cult fave among fans and put a cap on the comedy troupe’s amazing success with their TV series.
Dave Foley’s solo career took off first with the hit TV series NewsRadio (1995–1999) and the lead in Pixar’s A Bug’s Life (1998). Bruce McCulloch has gotten into directing a bit with movies like Dog Park (1998) and Stealing Harvard (2002). Kevin McDonald’s unmistakable voice is all over cartoons including Disney’s Lilo & Stitch and the animated series cult fave Invader ZIM. And all of them tend to pop up in movies and on TV regularly. The gang have gotten back together in recent years for tours and a hilarious TV mini series called Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town.
Here’s a great clip from the movie where Bruce McCulloch plays Greevo, a depressed singer of a rock band called Death Lurks: