Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy (1996)

kithposterA truly great comedy film is a difficult thing to find. The odds of finding an acceptably entertaining comedy are only slightly higher than the likelihood that any given horror movie will actually scare you. But finding a comedy that makes you laugh throughout the whole film, for years and years after you’ve seen it the first time? And one that only seems smarter the more you see it? That’s like climbing Mt. Everest and, you know, surviving. I can’t tell you how many times I laughed and laughed during a first-time watch of a comedy, only to show it to someone and realize: holy shit, this movie sucks. So naturally, when I feel I’ve found that needle in the haystack, it shoots right up to the top tier of my favorite films. Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy is just such a film.

Look, I won’t deny growing up a relatively privileged kid. I had everything a kid could want or need, but perhaps more important than anything (except maybe a mother’s unconditional love), I had cable. Shit, I’ll do you one better: I had HBO. I was watching the Kids in the Hall sketch comedy show before I had any damn clue what their jokes were on about. For the uninitiated, at its core the Kids in the Hall are five Canadian guys who write and perform sketch comedy. They play most, if not all of the characters in their sketches, which naturally means half the time they’re in drag. Growing up with their quirky brand of comedy probably predisposes me to appreciating their film more than the average Joe would. I do have it on good authority though that folks who have never really ‘got’ the Kids‘ sketch comedy can (and some even do!) appreciate the film to the fullest.

God damn the pusher scientists!

God damn the pusher scientists!

The plot is simple: Roritor Pharmaceuticals’ research department is about to get gutted. After spending a great deal of time on top of the Big Pharma heap as the geniuses behind stummies, a prozac-like pill that you can pop like candy whenever you feel a bit down, they’re now facing the possibility of bankruptcy. Don Roritor, the ruthless madman behind the company, is personally interviewing each scientist about their research; not only is he out to separate the wheat from the chaff, but he is also on the lookout for a hot, new, marketable drug, like, yesterday. When they get to Chris Cooper, they find out that he and his team have discovered a drug that will cure depression. Though they’re still in the early stages of testing, Cooper is pushed into a corner: tell them the drug is ready, or he and his entire team get the axe. So naturally, he lies and says it’s ready to go.

Gleemonex, as the drug is soon dubbed by Roritor’s wacky marketing executive Cisco, works by latching onto a patient’s happiest memory. For instance, test subject Mrs. Hurdicure reminisces in the happiness of her last

Mrs. Hurdicure, a.k.a. patient 957, is reluctant to take the new drug.

Mrs. Hurdicure, a.k.a. patient 957, is reluctant to take the new drug.

Christmas, when her lovely family came to visit… for 30 seconds. She is the first of millions of Americans to “cure” their depression by reliving their happiest memories, which honestly folks, are all pretty damn pathetic. Sadly, it’s just a matter of time before the unfortunate side effects take hold…

I truly believe Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy to be one of the smartest, funniest comedies I’ve ever seen. I am quite honestly astounded that it’s not more highly rated on Rotten Tomatoes (38%?!) or IMDb (6.8). Not only are the laughs consistent, but as I said before, it really holds up over time. Almost 20 years on, the subject matter is still relevant; perhaps even more so now than ever, what with Big Pharma growing so ubiquitous we simply take it for granted. But the Kids’ take on Big Pharma is just a small slice of the biting commentary it has to offer on our fucked-up society, but I must admit it’s my favorite part.

Ah, the perks of corporate rulership.

Ah, the perks of corporate rulership.

For as long as I’ve watched Kids in the Hall, they’ve been mocking businessmen. From the sketch where a young boy brings home a Businessman to his mother hoping to keep it as a pet to the one where businessman-Bruce literally rips his heart out of his chest and pours coffee on it to keep it ticking, the subject is obviously one the Kids are quite familiar with, and frankly, very good at making jokes about. But with an hour and a half running time to work with, the Kids have a serious field day with it, not only mocking what an asshole corporate bigwigs tend to be (this one evidently resembling Lorne Michaels more than just a little bit), but exactly how dangerous and reckless it can be to keep one’s eye on nothing but the company’s bottom line.

The Kids of course don’t stop there, they have plenty to say about how pathetic all our lives are. The characters that inhabit the world of Brain Candy are naturally pretty miserable, but not outrageously so; most of them strongly resemble folks we know in real life. Our narrator, a nasty old curmudgeon who drives a taxi seems to be the only guy who really understands that you can’t have happiness without sadness. But all that makes it sound like the film is preachy; it isn’t. Sure it’s got something important to say, but I don’t think you can have good, lasting comedy without cultural commentary. The bottom line is, of course, whether or not the movie will make you laugh. The only way to know that is to watch it yourselves, I suppose, so get to it.

0 Responses to “Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy (1996)”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Old Wave

%d bloggers like this: