Produced by and starring the actors in the Canadian comedy sketch show KIDS IN THE HALL, BRAIN CANDY (1996) is an amusing film about Western society’s predication for self-medication to feel happy. It’s amusing–snorts and a few chuckles instead of laughs for me–but is elevated by its effective satire.
The film centers on Chris Cooper, a scientist heading a lab at Roritor Pharmaceuticals. The insufferable CEO is firing people en masse to cut costs, leading to Chris, who is working on an antidepressant, to say his new drug is ready even though it hasn’t been thoroughly tested. Suddenly, he’s rich and famous as the drug cures depression and then gets sold over the counter to anybody wanting to feel good all the time. America is getting high, and Roritor is getting rich, but Chris learns the drug has an unexpected and disastrous side effect.
The film is basically a passable comedy, with the characters largely being silly caricatures, which worked for me as it was layered so thick the silliness took on a logic of its own. The comedy is also appreciably dark. Where the film really shines, however, is in its effective use of satire. How people value happiness like it’s some kind of virtue and sadness as a moral failing, and how they’ll self-medicate to take the edge off, while those peddling the cure reap massive profits regardless of the societal cost. It’s not quite IDIOCRACY, which was incredibly insightful and provocative, but it shoots for IDIOCRACY, and I appreciated that.