Lionsgate // 2002 // 83 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Neil Dorsett (Retired) // April 12th, 2004
"Keep it slow in my county, y'hear?"
Three trucks. Three men. A lucrative foreign market for 200,000 factory-fresh Mars bars. Too bad that isn't this movie.
Three made-for-cable criminals kidnap a made-for-cable movie star for some made-for-internet erotic antics. Wackiness ensues.
Coolio is Brad! I know all you doubters out there thought that Coolio could never play Brad. But he takes Brad and makes Brad his own. No one could have played this Brad but Coolio, because this Brad could never have been anyone but Coolio, and Coolio could never have been anyone but Brad. Naysayers be damned!
In other thoughts, who the hell casts Coolio as a guy named "Brad" and doesn't change the character's name afterward? This is a pointless question, since the answer is right in the credits of Stealing Candy. Sure, Tim, Biff, Harry, Fei-Wong, Vladmir...but Brad? I don't buy it. The truth is that Coolio tries to be his usual scenery-chewing self, put to best use in the otherwise lackluster Burn Hollywood Burn, but here there is no scenery to chew. The frustration is visible. But he delivered the line "Hats off" while taking his hat off to reveal a scarf covering up his Coolio-hair underneath, so that's gotta count for something.
The movie is standard cable TV crime fare with a particularly low budget precluding any interesting use of location or sets. Jenya Lano portrays Candy (the movie is too dumb to utilize its participle-based title metaphorically), a "top movie star." Personally, I always find it very off-putting when a rudimentary cheap flick tries to sell me on the idea of its lead character being a big movie star. If she was a big movie star, she wouldn't have been in it at all. Instead, what we have here is a Spice Channel all-star candidate playing the role of a major movie star. You know, big time. Right. So this forgettable stripp...ahem, actress (with skin too questionable to be featured in close-ups as tight as this movie hands her -- learn the cheerleader lesson, folks. They're meant to look good from sixty feet away) gets kidnapped by Alex MacArthur (TV's Desperado, for those with long memories) and Coolio, along with Daniel Baldwin, a Baldwin brother heretofore unknown to this reviewer. Baldwin, easily the best performer in the movie, is the only one given a role with even two dimensions -- in a heartwrenchingly awful scene, he is informed by his wife that their son needs a critical cancer operation, providing his character, Walter, with an actual motivation, provided that you ignore the actual scene and just absorb the basic premise of it. If you pay attention to this scene, you will be laughing far too hard at the acting of one Julie St. Claire, who performs in a way that could only be described as Shatnerrific. Hewow. Baldwin, on the other hand, at least seems vaguely aware of how crappy the movie is, and delivers what none of his brothers are capable of, save one: a passable imitation of founding Baldwin brother Alec. But for the weight difference they could be the same guy. The bulk of the dialogue falls on MacArthur, who spends most of his scenes wearing a perverse and unconvincing smile.
So they've kidnapped, at tremendous expositional length enhanced by music cues that a Sunday night revival of TV's Hunter would be ashamed to use, the movie star. Are they going to ransom her? Why, heavens no! That would ignore the much more profitable online porn business! Their plan instead is to force the actress to perform sexually on-camera to make an estimated $8 million to split between the three of them. That's right, $8 million for one internet porn show. A couple of quick emails to any professional in that business should disabuse one of such notions fairly readily, but Walter is the only one who understands computers. "I steer," says MacArthur, "but he makes it go." As the movie progresses, it gets closer and closer to being the internet home movie that it promises its customers. The promise of the act itself is much of the point of this picture.
This brings forth an interesting question. Is this movie meant to caution parents about the dangers of the internet, or is it an attempt to appeal to perverts who are familiar through and through with such things? What is the audience? After fifty minutes or so of this movie, I realized that it has no audience in mind whatsoever. Stealing Candy is purely mercenary filler. It exists in that made-for-video world with Outlaw of Gor and Witchboard IV. It's here to fill 83 minutes of cable TV time, which allows for seven full minutes of commercials if it runs uncut, and it'll come cheap, for those two A.M. timeslots. I continued to watch as, surprise surprise, the party turned on one another, with Brad of course turning violent psycho and attempting to rape the movie star and Baldwin playing peacemaker the whole way through. We witness the tame sex act, nothing that would even make the Spice Channel bite. Some people get killed in unspectacular ways, Coolio runs around for a while with the movie's only relevant handgun (his "bitch," according to an early scene), the girl sexes it up a bit (a little bit) and all's right in the world, or not. So is there any reason to watch this movie? No. But that's not really why it exists.
The disc itself is substandard as well. The picture is soft throughout and of very low contrast, and in addition is plagued with moiré in nearly any medium or long shot, particularly on car grilles and in foliage. There is a very present jaggy quality to the image. Compression itself is not a problem, but the transfer is very poor to begin with. To top it all off, Stealing Candy seems to have been photographed for television, which only follows as this movie can only be considered cable TV time-filler. Working toward one's primary market is in itself no sin, but the picture doesn't stand the crop to 16x9 that's present on this disc. Heads routinely wander off the screen to the top or bottom, and the framing is so consistently pedestrian that the film would have suffered not a jot further from being viewed in 4x3, the way God intended a cable cheapie to be seen.
Audio is available in either 5.1 Dolby Digital or surround. The mix is adequate to the purposes of this movie. Considering that they could only afford one gun and one pop song (invoked in three separate instances, "I Kinda Like to Party" is not the most memorable track in the world. But repetition does induce memory), there's really not a lot to hear. Especially the last line, "I really am remarkable." Some might consider that a spoiler, but since the line clearly has no connection to this movie, and is completely inaudible, there's really no harm done. The only extra is an audio commentary from director Mark L. Lester, who is greatly experienced in this sort of thing having directed many a quickie in his day, and the movie's producer, Dana Dubowsky. This commentary reveals that neither of them know their movie is what it is, or are simply maintaining a strong face despite it. The commentary is unlively, just like the movie, with long stretches of silence. The best thing about this disc, really, is its menus; simple and effective and inspired by images from the movie without containing spoilers or dialogue. Would that the movie was so short and to the point.
The rebuttal witnesses declined to appear, having already cashed their checks and invested their energies elsewhere.
What can you really say about this kind of thing? Just don't be fooled into thinking Stealing Candy is anything other than cable filler. It's hard to really judge the movie for being that, since there is a market out there and producer/director Mark L. Lester has been in the business of satisfying that market for many years. It's a necessary sort of thing. But for crying out loud, don't watch it unless you're reading a book or knitting, perhaps enjoying the physical company of an intimate friend, and making frequent trips to the kitchen to run a loud icemaker and dishwasher, playing with the dog, or other such doings. That's what this kind of movie really expects of you as an audience, and if you fall down on the job, there's no one to blame but yourself.
The court would begin its sentence by declaring a moratorium on film titles based on a participle followed by a woman's name. Mark L. Lester and everyone else involved with Stealing Candy are found not only guilty of failing to steal any candy, but guilty of maintaining a pattern of bad moviemaking made obsolete some fifteen years ago, and trying to tack on a "modern" angle to forgive it. You got your cable sale, now you've got a verdict to go along with it. Stealing Candy is sentenced to a temporal warp that will allow it to spend an appropriate amount of time Up All Night with Gilbert Gottfried on the USA network. If they're lucky, maybe it'll be a time before Gottfried worked out his Seinfeld impression and they'll go back to back with Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death. But I wouldn't count on it.
Review content copyright © 2004 Neil Dorsett; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Bottom 100 Discs: #97
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Director's Commentary