Television's Kids in the Hall make a relatively smooth, if offbeat, transition to the bigscreen with "Brain Candy." The mad scientist/corporate heavy comedy is an odd combination of belly laughs and cerebral humor that will delight those familiar with the sketchcom troupe's antics.

Television’s Kids in the Hall make a relatively smooth, if offbeat, transition to the bigscreen with “Brain Candy.” The mad scientist/corporate heavy comedy is an odd combination of belly laughs and cerebral humor that will delight those familiar with the sketchcom troupe’s antics. Just a tad too hip to translate across the board, it should wind up as a mid-range domestic success, with good overseas potential in markets where the TV show is aired.

Unquestionably a solid showcase for the Kids (who collectively

play 32 roles) and their wry, wicked observations, this maiden film effort provides strong ammunition for a follow-up. A good commercial opening should widen the group’s audience beyond the current cult following.

The simple saga involves the fortunes of the mammoth pharmaceutical concern Roritor. The maker of Stummies is in desperate need of a hit drug to put it back in profit.

Unfortunately, most of its research units are involved in rather arcane pursuits. One by one, the scientific chiefs detail projects tothe board of directors and wind up victims of corporate downsizing.

Dr. Chris Cooper (Kevin McDonald) tells the board of “favorable results” of his new antidepressant, which has not been fully tested. The company bigshots only want to know whether it’s ready; facing the unemployment line, the scientist caves in to their needs. In a flash, the drug is dubbed Gleemonex and outperforms penicillin on the charts of Drug Variety.

The stock goes soaring, Cooper becomes a media star, the company moves to have the pill reclassified for over-the-counter availability … and the first side effects arise. A small percentage of repeat users literally become stuck fixating on their greatest moment of happiness — the key to the drug’s effectiveness.

“Brain Candy” is rather unusual in the current comedy sweepstakes because of its serious underpinnings. Kids in the Hall are social satirists in an era when humor tends to be anarchic or about bowel movements.

Though the story enjoys going off on tangents, it has a solid core that brings together its myriad strings. While the deadpan approach and its corporate setting recall the misfired “Hudsucker Proxy,” the ensemble is assured and adroitly gets the gags across without telegraphing punch lines.

With the five Kids playing the lion’s share of roles, the rest of the cast consists largely of day players and extras. (Brendan Fraser pops up in an uncredited cameo as a member of an experiment gone awry.) And while many of the troupe’s characters derive from the TV series, there is no attempt to tailor the film to conform to previous small-screen scenarios. (This approach is not unlike the one Monty Python used in its first movies.)

The film provides an opportunity for the individual troupe members to display their versatility. Bruce McCulloch gets to play the surliest of marketing execs as well as the serene Cancer Boy, while Mark McKinney goes from the somewhat blind head of Roritor to a female talkshow host and a martinet of a drill sergeant. The five members demonstrate that they are more than just sketch artists. Four of them are also among the five scripters of the piece.

Tech credits are good, but director Kelly Makin, who helmed many episodes of the “Kids in the Hall” TV series, appears to be still learning how to compose on a large screen. This is most evident in a sequence in which a character’s sexual awakening dawns: Attempts to explode into a glorious song-and-dance number fall short of the opportunity.

“Brain Candy” is good for the head. Still, it might be too intellectual for the masses, who may need a couple of more shots of this unique comic prescription to fully appreciate the joke.

Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy

Production

A Paramount release of a Lakeshore Entertainment presentation of a Lorne Michaels production. Produced by Michaels. Executive producers, Tom Rosenberg, Sigurjon Sighvatsson, David Steinberg. Co-producers, Barnaby Thompson, Richard S. Wright. Directed by Kelly Makin. Screenplay, Norm Hiscock, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, Scott Thompson.

Crew

Camera (Deluxe color), David Makin; editor, Christopher Cooper; music, Craig Northey; production design, Gregory P. Keen; art direction, Paul Denham Austerberry; sound (Dolby), Bruce D. Carwardine; assistant director, Walter Gasparovic; casting, Ross Clydesdale. Reviewed at Festival Theater, L.A., April 9, 1996. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 88 min.

With

Marv/Psychiatrist/New Guy/Raymond - David Foley
Alice/Cisco/Grivo/Worm Pill Scientist/Cop 2/Cancer Boy/White Trash Man - Bruce McCulloch
Dr. Chris Cooper/Chris' Dad/Doreen/Lacey - Kevin McDonald
Simon/Don Roritor/Cabbie/Gunter/Cop 1/Nina Bedford/Drill Sergeant/White Trash Woman - Mark McKinney
Baxter/Mrs. Hurdicure/Wally/Malek/The Queen/Phil/Raj/Clemptor - Scott Thompson
Woman at Party - Janeane Garofalo
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