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Film review: Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy

Published: Tuesday, April 16 1996 12:00 a.m. MDT

There's always a risk in roasting a movie like "Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy." Movies like this are so self-consciously hip and so self-righteously smug that any negative review will automatically be dismissed by those who simply view the critic as too old, too conservative or simply too un-hip to get it.

So, let me say up front that while any or all of those criticisms may apply in this case, the fact remains that I do get it. I just don't like it.

A Canadian quintet of male comics who think they are Monty Python, but who lack the wit or style of that groundbreaking comedy troupe, the Kids in the Hall are certainly anarchic. (The biggest Python similarity is that the "Kids" also play female characters in drag.)

But while these "Kids" like to describe themselves as having an "edge," they haven't learned the difference between being edgy and being sleazy. The cheap sex gag has always been the easy gag, and in "Brain Candy" at least, these guys more often than not go for the easy gag, albeit with a homosexual twist.

Four of the "Kids" (Bruce Mc-Cul-loch, Kevin Mc-Don-ald, Mark Mc-Kin-ney and Scott Thompson) collaborated on the screenplay with Norm Hiscock (an off-screen writing veteran of the "Kids in the Hall" television series). (David Foley was apparently too busy starring in the hit sitcom "News-Radio.") And this is the second film (after the equally lamentable "National Lampoon's Senior Trip") for director Kelly Makin, also a veteran of the "Kids in the Hall" series.

Together, they have attempted to make "Brain Candy" something more than merely a series of skits tied together to showcase the boys' multiple-character talents. And the result is more a movie movie than might be expected (with a curious visual debt to the Coen Brothers' "Hudsucker Proxy"), one designed to tell a story and promulgate a specific view.

But it still contains an awful lot of skits (or a lot of awful skits, you be the judge).

The story, set largely in New York City, is built around the development by a nerdy scientist of a wonder drug, an anti-depressant that locks the brain on the individual's happiest memory. As you might expect, the initial result is that those who take the drug go from being depressed and downbeat to being happy and generous, and the world becomes a better place ("crime is down, although, oddly, so is tourism," the scientist's boss says at one point).

But, of course, a downside is right around the corner, a side effect that causes users to become comatose.

In and around this the film lampoons celebrity worship, daytime talk shows, big business, drug abuse, closeted gays, gays who are in denial, TV award programs, those who demand instant self-gratification at all costs, suicide, cancer and much more. No holds barred here.

Yes, it's sick, twisted and silly, and it's all played very broadly in an off-the-wall style. And there are some undeniably clever set-pieces here and there - but most of the time it's also extremely tasteless.

Granted, tastelessness can be funny - but these guys revel in being nonstop, in-your-face tasteless at the expense of humor or insight.

"Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy" is rated R for wall-to-wall profanity and vulgarity, sex, nudity and drug abuse.

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