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Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy

The influence of sketch comedy — and the success of gag films like Airplane and Austin Powers — has almost killed the smartly written comic film. Studios don't seem to know how to market good satire, and of late the only comedies that succeed feature "Saturday Night Live" vets in films that are just brief skits stretched to 90 minutes. Which makes it ironic then that the Kids in the Hall movie Brain Candy is one of the sharpest written comedies of the last ten years, relying more on verbal wit and plotting than slapstick gags. The Kids in the Hall are a troupe of five Canadian comedians (Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, Scott Thompson) who had a sketch comedy show that ran from 1989 through 1994, and played stateside on HBO and Comedy Central. With its cult success — and SNL producer Lorne Michael attached — a movie was guaranteed. But since the film didn't play to the lowest common denominator and wasn't the TV show's characters translated to the big screen (and had the awful poster to boot, which is now the DVD cover), it was lost in the theaters. That's too bad, as Brain Candy is a wickedly satirical dystopian parable. Scientist Chris Cooper (MacDonald) is working to cure clinical depression and has finally seemed to crack the problem, but when Roritor — the company he works for — starts cutting their research and development budget, Cooper tells them the drug is ready without conclusive testing. And the concoction seems to have positive results: An old woman (Thompson) who uses the drug is able to move out of an old-folks home, while a repressed homosexual (Thompson) can finally admit he's gay after taking it — in a musical number, natch. The drug, named Gleemonex (with its ad tagline "Gleemonex makes it feel like it's 72 degrees in your head ... all the time"), also makes Chris famous, helped by the company's jerk marketing director Cisco (McCulloch) and prodding of owner Don Roritor (McKinney, doing what some have claimed a Lorne Michaels imitation). But after long-term use the drug is revealed to create "happiness comas," leaving people frozen in their happiest memory. Nonetheless, the drug is so successful (it stopped the sale of crack and ruined tourism) that no one cares. Filled with the off-kilter comedy that The Kids in the Hall are known for, it's a shame Brain Candy wasn't better received, but at least the DVD offers some comfort. Paramount's presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and both DD 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. However, even though there is an alternate ending somewhere, there are no extras. Keep-case.
—DSH



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