Gen X doesn’t have a lot to show for itself, but it does have the greatest sketch comedy troupe to come down the pike since Monty Python: Canada’s The Kids in the Hall, whose endurance continues well into the 21st Century with a new season almost 3 decades later. Between their last TV season and this new one, they released an odd little feature film that came and went: Brain Candy, which has been kept alive as a 90’s cult comedy classic by KITH’s many rabid fans, but forgotten by pretty much everyone else.
Movie versions of TV shows are popular to attempt but rarely successful; translating sketch comedy into a feature format even less so. For every Monty Python and the Holy Grail there are countless failures-that-shall-not-be-named as comedy teams realize that what works in 5 minute chunks doesn’t really sustain itself for 90. Brain Candy is no Holy Grail, but it’s no It’s Pat either (look it up.) It maintains the spirit of what makes KITH so brilliant- their offbeat and ironic sensibilities- and works that sensibility into a functional narrative about a new pill that makes you happy… too happy, as it turns out.
Oddly enough, the basic premise isn’t that different from David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, which also came out in 1996- though the two works couldn’t be more different. In the tradition of the Pythons, all 5 Kids- Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney, Kevin McDonald and Scott Thompson- play multiple roles, many of them in drag. There aren’t a ton of laugh-out-loud moments, but there are a few, including the very offensive and still hilarious Cancer Boy character, which managed to offend a lot of people even back in the 90’s- KITH being a prime example of how you can push the boundaries of taste and offensiveness in an intelligent, creative, artistic way.
Equally brilliant is Scott Thompson’s closeted gay dad character, Wally Terzinsky, who finally finds the gumption to come out with the help of this happy pill. The Kids have always been at the forefront of satirizing society’s homophobia, and with the extra time allotted in a feature narrative, they’re finally able to flesh out some of these sketch ideas to their full extent. Though a lot of the quirkiness remains just that- quirky, if not quite hilarious- Brain Candy is never not enjoyable. It is, in fact, a slow burn that stays with you, building your appreciation after the fact.
As a special bonus, we present to you the original workprint cut, featuring deleted scenes and a completely different- and darker- ending. It’s worth watching if only to compare the two versions and how much the film changes because of them. There’s also a whole scene between McDonald and Gen X fave Janeane Garofalo, and a scattering of other gags that didn’t make the final cut. It’s a very rough looking VHS dub, but a fascinating peek inside the process of making of this unique 90’s comedy.
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