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Quiet ‘Kid’ Mcculloch Proves His Worth In Satire ‘Brain Candy’

FRIDAY, SEPT. 20, 1996

In the years that I’ve been watching “The Kids in the Hall,” that Canadian comedy troupe whose shows were syndicated on cable television’s Comedy Central, I never cared much for Bruce McCulloch.

The smallest and seemingly least talented of the quintet, which includes Mark McKinney, Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald and Scott Thompson, McCulloch much of the time proved hardly noticeable. And his post-Kids disappearance seems only to point out his insignificance.

After all, McKinney joined “Saturday Night Live,” Foley stars on “News Radio,” Thompson snared a role on “The Larry Sanders Show” and even McDonald got a small part in the film “Senior Trip.” What has become of McCulloch?

Well, we find out in “The Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy,” the Kids’ first movie project and their first joint venture since they disbanded (see capsule review below). If anything, McCulloch proves to be the film’s most reliable performer.

In the first place, he portrays the nerdy, would-be lover of a drug inventor portrayed by McDonald. Cloaking his stocky body in a series of short-skirted dresses, wearing a blond bob-cut wig and adopting the prissy voice of a Most Likely to Succeed in Science scholar, McCulloch is a throwback - something out of the early 1960s.

Then he goes rock star: Wearing a waist-length wig and going shirtless, McCulloch plays the lead singer of a punk group whose major attraction is irritation - he rails at everything, until a Prozac-type drug turns him into a flower-child troubador who would put Melanie to shame.

And there are others. But his funniest creation, which only hints at the dark side of Kids humor, involves a character called Cancer Boy, complete with bald wig, baseball cap and wheelchair. You have to see it to believe it.

The Kids may not survive their first movie project, which opened lukewarmly in theaters and was hurried to video. They may prove to be about as enduring as SCTV vets Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis did following their first (and, so far, only) Rob and Doug McKenzie feature, 1983’s “Strange Brew.”

If nothing else, though, at least we know that Bruce McCulloch is not the least of the Kids.

A few favorite things

Fox Home Video is doing one of those occasional promotions involving a movie classic. On Aug. 27 it released “The Sound of Music” on a single cassette (price $19.98), complete with digital remastering.

Released theatrically in 1965, the Robert Wise-directed film earned five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Sound, Best Adapted Score and Best Editing. Based on the as-inspired-by-life story of the Von Trapp Family Singers, the film used the music of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein and the glimmering personality of Julie Andrews to create one of the greatest of “family” films.

Sing now, “How do you solve a problem like Maria…?”

The Birdcage ***

Robin Williams and Nathan Lane star in this adaptation of the cross-dressing French comedy “La Cage Aux Folles,” which features Williams’ straight son marrying the daughter of a conservative U.S. senator (Gene Hackman) and Lane trying to pass as the embarrassed boy’s mother. Directed by Mike Nichols from a screenplay by Elaine May, the film is surprisingly good. May has added several currentaffairs-type references to the script, Nichols keeps things moving smoothly (he makes Miami look marvelous) and the acting is especially good, by Williams and Lane, of course, but also by Hackman, Diane Wiest as his wife and Hank Azaria as a Guatemalan houseboy (with a distinctly Cuban accent). Cross-dressing comedies aren’t to everyone’s taste, but note this: At the showing I attended, one elderly woman laughed so hard she started to choke. Rated R

“The Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy” **-1/2

Like all good comedy troupes, Canada’s The Kids in the Hall boasts individual members who are capable of playing a variety of memorable characters. The five Kids had their own television show, produced in Canada and still syndicated here, before this attempt at movie stardom. And while they have their own unique style, at their best they can provide as many laughs as SCTV, Monty Python and the very best of any “Saturday Night Live” cast. The plot here involves McDonald who, as a chemical engineer slaving for a profit-oriented company, invents a Prozac-like drug that forces users into a state of euphoria by recalling their happiest memory. Trouble ensues, though, when people begin getting stuck… in… their… minds… This is a hit-and-miss affair that will appeal mostly to die-hard Kids fans. Rated R

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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