a Primal Root review
We live in a world of turmoil and sadness. We live lives of quiet desperation. We work none stop as we try to make ends meet with the meager salaries we’re paid and our happiest moments seem so fleeting…where sadness and bitterness feel ever present.
But, what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if with one single pill, just one dose, you could relive and exist with the same feeling of jubilation you experienced during the happiest moment of your life? It sounds wonderful. To feel the way you did during that first kiss, or when the kids visited for the holidays or that time you strutted your stuff to Funky Town by Lipps Inc…wouldn’t it be magic?
This is the basic premise surrounding the 5 piece comedy troupe, Kids in the Hall’s, one and only motion picture from 1996. The troupe had become wildly popular with it’s HBO comedy sketch series produced by Lorne Michaels. With an odd, dark, outsider type of comedy, Kids in the Hall is kind of an acquired taste. But enough people loved their brand of humor the show stuck around for 5 years before airing it’s final episode in 1994.
That is how in 1996 the extremely talented gentlemen behind Kids in the Hall put together what I consider to be one of the most intelligent, thoughtful and darkly subversive trash cinema comedies of the 90’s.
To save his crumbling pharmaceutical company, Don Roritor (Mark McKinney, playing the evil CEO as a not so subtle jab at Lorne Michaels) rushes a still experimental antidepressant named GleeMONEX into production. When a patient ingests the drug their brain seizes and feeds off the feeling of joy from their happiest memory…chemically. Our main character is the inventor of this miracle drug, Chris Cooper (Kevin McDonald, at his wiry and hysterical best), who achieves rock star celebrity status upon the masses lovingly accepting his drug.
It all happens quickly, and before you know it, the drug is being sold over the counter. Elederly woman are feeling better than ever and moving out of retirement homes, gloom and doom rock stars are writing upbeat ditties about Happiness Pie and husbands in denial about their otherwise obvious homosexuality are finally able to come out the closet. Three months later the side affects begin rearing their ugly head. Those taking the drug are locking into this happiest memory and going into a sort of coma.
And it’s up to Chris Cooper and his team to find the cure and put a stop to their wonder drug which has flooded the market and is being gulped down as readily as Tic-Tacs. Brain Candy gives us a glimpse of a dystopian future where everyone is either happy or in a coma due to this drug. Eternal happiness may seem pleasant, but shit, if everyone is happy all the time it can quickly turn into Hell.
Brain Candy is a tasteless jet black satire of the human condition and manages to make some wicked observations along the way. But the Kids in the Hall have always been social satirists which might have been the biggest down fall of the film and why it completely bombed upon release. It’s hard to sell a film that points the mirror back at the audience who knowingly and willingly buy the “happiness” sold to them.
And the troupe itself really gets to illustrate their versatility as individual actors. Bruce McCulloch gets to play an obnoxious corporate marketing executive while also playing a mousy high strung female lab assistance. Scott Thompson plays a sweet old woman in one scene and a mustachioed repressed homosexual married man the next. Everyone gets their due here and shows off their own hysterical methods of comedy in style.
Brain Candy is a mix of both cerebral comedy and sure fire belly laughs in equal measure while also managing to deliver a message. That life sure can be a shit pile sometimes, but you know, without the dark times the truely sweet moments don’t mean nearly as much. We have to suffer sometimes. We have to live through the drudgeries of life so we can find our way to those ever so short lived glimpses of utter happiness. But it is useless to live for these memories alone. We must keep moving forward and keep our hearts and minds open to these moments in life that make it worthwhile.
Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy is not a safe comedy. This is not a cookie cutter work of cinema. this a motion picture concocted by five immensely talented sketch artists and comedians who know how to make us laugh. Well, those of us who can laugh at ourselves and our own vulnerabilities.
-The Primal Root