"I know better than they do": Movie Reviews, Week #8 - The Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy
Posted on: July 1, 2011 by gregoryeverett.
It is I, Greg Everett, coming to you once again from the fringes of irrelevancy with a movie from 1996. Now, if you’re Canadian, and of a certain age, you may remember a sketch comedy show called The Kids in the Hall that ran on CBC from 1988 – 1994; admittedly, you probably didn’t like it or watch it, but goddamn it, you remember it, right? Right?! It was produced by Lorne Michaels, the same man who brought us Saturday Night Live, and starred, in no particular order, Kevin MacDonald, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch, Dave Foley, and Scott Thompson. Some memorable sketches and beloved recurring characters meant The Kids in the Hall achieved a bit of mainstream popularity, but they were more or less relegated to cult classic status. And that isn’t a bad thing at all; The Kids’ particular brand of humour is geared far more toward a vanguard of devoted weirdoes. Which is why you’ve never heard of their 1996 feature film Brain Candy, and why I’m here today to tell you about it.
Director: Kelly Makin
Writers: Norm Hiscock, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin MacDonald, Mark McKinney, Scott Thompson
Starring: Kevin MacDonald, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch, Dave Foley, Scott Thompson
There’s no sense listing who played who because, in sketch show fashion, the Kids play a variety of characters in an ensemble cast. I can, however, give you a synopsis: Roritor, a leading pharmaceutical company, is hemorrhaging profit, and so guts its research and development labs; Dr. Chris Cooper, leader of an R&D team, offers up his untested cure for depression in order to preserve his job and his laboratory. The drug, dubbed Gleemonex, works by chemically isolating the patient’s happiest memory and locking them in it. All is well, especially for Dr. Cooper, as the world enjoys the benefits of eternal happiness and he enjoys the benefits of inventing such a wonder-drug, but things change quickly when early test subjects fall into comas of happiness, frozen in memory loops, and Chris must take responsibility for the world he created.
I make no bones about it: watching a movie based on a sketch comedy show, and a particularly bizarre sketch comedy show at that, is risky. I’ve actually avoided watching Brain Candy over the years because there seem to be only two ways the formula can work out: a regular format episode stretched over feature length time, or a feature length movie that scrambles to fit the haphazard elements of the show into a weak framework. But hear this: The Kids in the Hall pulled it off. What they created is a feature length film with a plot that really sounds like the plot of a feature length film: the synopsis I’ve given could stand tall as a drama, and looking at it in isolation, it’s a wonder they made something funny out of it all. However, funny they make…err...did…fucking syntax.
[caption id="attachment_1673" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Jesus, look at that fucking syntax!"][/caption]
For Brain Candy, rather than trying to shoehorn in characters like Gavin, the Chicken Lady, the Headcrusher, Buddy Cole, and Rudy the-John-Wayne-impersonating-pimp, the Kids adapted archetypal figures for roles unique to the film. Bruce McCulloch’s Cancer Boy and Mark McKinney’s Gruff Croatian Taxi Driver slip through the filter unaltered simply because they fit the film perfectly; the rest of the well-known characters from the television show survive merely as elements of, say, Scott Thompson’s naïve and good natured old lady, Mrs. Hurdicure, or Bruce’s crude, self-centered marketing exec, Cisco. It may sound like I’m trying to justify ‘the dilution of the series’ to hardcore Kids fans, or vice versa, but let me make myself perfectly clear: if you loved, or even liked, the tv series, you will enjoy this film. And if you didn’t like, or have never seen the tv series, you will enjoy this film. This paradox is made possible by a simple fact: this is a funny movie.
Strong sketch-com sensibilities remain throughout Brain Candy, and it’s the blending of the elements of story-telling and humorous exposition that makes this movie work. Rather than focusing strictly on the story line, which would require a lot of artifice in order to ensure the quota for bizarre characters and ridiculous plot devices was met, the film branches out, showing us what the world is like before and after the drug by creating a whole city of side-characters and mini-scenes. At the same time the plot line is not just a means of grounding a silly film; the primary characters are just as ridiculous as those on the fringes, and a ludicrous situation can arise from a board meeting as easily as from the cops surprising a clandestine gay orgy in a park bathroom. Dr. Cooper goes on a national talkshow to explain how his drug works and ends up shaking his hips “like a young Tom Jones.”
[caption id="attachment_1674" align="alignnone" width="640" caption=""Okay Doc, wiggle us out!""][/caption]
As far as the actual mechanics of movie making go, surprisingly enough (although really, it’s only snobbery on my part that makes it so) Brain Candy is air-tight. There are no pacing problems, but that’s hardly any wonder when you’ve got sixteen years of sketch comedy under your belt (director Kelly Makin’s experience clocks in at much less than that, having worked on the tv series from 1992 onward). The camera work and framing, etc. are, for the most part, run of the mill, but that’s to be expected: a comedy should always be more about what’s happening on screen than the way it’s captured. What’s surprising is that as the film progresses, complex framing and shots begin to really compliment the plot as everything sort of falls apart (thanks to Gleemonex); for the best example of what I’m on about, check out the final confrontation between Don, CEO of Roritor, and wonder-drug creator Dr. Cooper.
The thing that makes Brain Candy a really solid overall is its sense of compromise: the Kids didn’t try to force sketch-com across media barriers, but at the same time they didn’t sacrifice sketch-com to make a feature length film. What they did was write an “A then B then C” story and added the word ‘but’: “Dr. Cooper creates Gleemonex, but look at all this other stuff; then Roritor makes Gleemonex available over the counter, but look at all this other stuff;” and so on. I was impressed time and again at how the Kids include scenes you would expect to find in a plot of this sort, such as scientists scrambling for ideas to get funding for their labs, and then take them to even more bizarre places than you would have guessed (and I can guess at some pretty bizarre places, I mean im-PRESSED). I was also impressed at how the movie made no attempt to ride on the coattails of the tv show: there are polite nods and a couple of cameos, but aside from that Brain Candy is a complete standalone. And well worth the hour and twenty-eight minutes it takes to watch.
Mom Always Said Don't Say Anything If You Can't Say Something Nice
Posted on: June 20, 2011 by admin.
So Green Lantern came out this past week, and while I haven't had the chance to see it yet, from all the negativity the critics are directing towards it, I don't think I'm missing out on much. When it does come out here in Vietnam I will see it, but until then I've been LOLing a lot thanks to the new DC/Marvel video by SomeRandomGuy. It's funny, but at the same so sad, and so, SO true that Marvel seems to be better at making live-action movies with their characters (I will give the win to DC when it comes to animated movies). From my understanding after watching the video you can add your comments in the comment box on his youtube site and they MIGHT be featured in Part II of the vid. They say charity is the best gift so please, be kind. Afterall, It's not GL's fault that Ryan Reynolds played him.
Mario Gets No Respect
Posted on: November 11, 2010 by admin.
Joel's gone MIA today, so that means we won't be getting a video game review. In it's place I present to you this hilarious College Humor video where Mario gets roasted...made fun of that is, not cooked, which y'know would be REALLY over the top and dark...ahem, anyway, here's the video.