We've scheduled a trip to the dentist for Judge Chris Kulik, following his work on this review.
You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll tug yourself dry…
I had low expectations when I popped I Want Candy in my DVD player. The cover—showcasing co-star Carmen Electra in Victoria Secret garb holding a pear and an equally skimpy tagline ("the year's juiciest comedy")—reeked of desperation on the part of the distributors. In the end, I was more than surprised with this dandy little British comedy, which has been released in the States courtesy of Magnolia Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
This is the story of Joe (Tom Riley, Lost in Austen) and Baggy (Tom Burke, The Libertine), two college blokes who are itching to film their full-length, original script. After being laughed at by their professor (who is only concerned with short films), the duo boldly travel to London to find a studio to buy it. Working Title rejects them, but hope just may come to them with Head Productions…which specializes in hardcore pornography!
At first, the head of Head (Eddie Marsan, Hancock) orders these wankers to bugger off, but makes a deal with Joe on one condition: the promise that the film will star adult superstar Candy Fiveways (Carmen Electra, Meet The Spartans). Within no time, Joe and Baggy hire a guerrilla film crew, set up set in Joe's house, and are ready to roll…until they realize Candy is practically retired. In one last effort, Baggy approaches her at a book signing, gives her the script to read…and she jumps at the opportunity!
One of my favorite comedies is Orgazmo, the 1997 Trey Parker-Matt Stone comedy about a nice Mormon boy who becomes—against his better wishes—America's No. 1 porn star. It's a lewd, crude, foul-mouthed farce which is subsequently a brilliant satire on the porn industry and comic superheroes. While I Want Candy has a similar type of satiric thrust, it succeeds for one hour, then goes limp near the end. Nevertheless, it's an overlooked comedy from across the pond which is worth watching.
The interesting hook of I Want Candy is that these two college students want to make a legitimate film, albeit one that will be seen by people without flies being unzipped. Their pitch meetings make eyes roll, even their loud porno producer, who actually gives them a break. There some great laughs as the two do casting sessions in the school theater rooms (behind their prof's back, naturally), finding girls and guys who would be up for the challenge. There are even some bigger laughs as their amateur attempts at movie-making take a nose-dive here and there, particularly since their budget is nonexistent (they don't get paid until after they deliver, fancy that).
On the whole, it's an amusing ride which boasts two likable leads and some priceless jabs at not only porn but filmmaking in general. And yet, the studio insists on capitalizing on Electra's image, just because it's the biggest asset in selling the film. As annoying as this is, it's unfortunately the nature of the beast; at least we are not bombarded with TV spots like New Line did for Over Her Dead Body earlier this year. It's a crappy DVD cover which will look like yet another American Pie knockoff, masking something more special.
The presence of four screenwriters indicates that several re-writes were conducted, and even one of the producers mentions in an interview that this film has been in development for almost five years! When co-screenwriter Pete Hewitt gave up the directorial reigns for Garfield, the project went into limbo, until one of the producers hired Stephen Surjik (Wayne's World 2), who may be best known for directing many episodes of Kids in the Hall. Surjik keeps everything laid back and—despite the film's subject matter—opts not to go the gross-out route. In fact, aside from a few F-bombs, this could have easily been a PG-13 film; there is no nudity and the sexual material is playfully light.
As young as they are, Brits Tom Riley and Tom Burke are exceedingly likable, and manage to carry the picture with their good-natured attitudes. Many of the supporting turns will register as unfamiliar to U.S. audiences, although the ragtag group of filmmakers has some hilarious personalities. Mackenzie Crook (the Pirates Of The Caribbean trilogy) is a trip as the wacked-out film prof. Even Electra shows a sweet side to her which hadn't been explored, considering she's only bloomed in crap-fests like Date Movie, Epic Movie, and Meet The Spartans. The only misstep is the casting of Michelle Ryan as a hip-less waitress who comes to work for the crew; she's about as bad as she was when she played Jaime Summers in NBC's revamped Bionic Woman.
Magnolia picked up I Want Candy for Region 1 distribution, and the results are better than expected. The 1.78:1 Anamorphic widescreen print reveals its low-budget, and yet the image is clean, free of debris, and has many bright colors. Audio is provided in two tracks: 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo; in both cases, the dialogue is easily heard and the soundtrack (including former Spice Girl Mel C's update of the title song by The Strangeloves) is sonically sound. Subtitles are provided in Spanish only, although the DVD is closed captioned. The extras—all ported over from the Region 2 version—are slight, but agreeable, with a selection of outtakes, deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes. The last one, running 12 minutes, turns out to be the best offering, with interviews provided by Surjik, the screenwriters and much of the cast. Also included is a rather shameful promotional plugger ("Top Ten Tips For Making A Porn"). Surjik provided a fine commentary for Wayne's World 2, why not here?
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I had fun with I Want Candy all the way until the third act. It's almost as if the writers (or re-writers) ran out of fresh humor and surrendered to contrived silliness. In addition, the relationships are not really paid off as much as one would like, particularly the one between Joe and Lila, which had been awkward from the get-go, considering there is another love interest named Tiffany—which is given just as much exposition! Yes, I would actually buy the Baggy-Candy courtship, but how many porn stars do you think are major Woody Allen fans?
The film was made at the famed Ealing Studios, which is the oldest in the world. In the 1950s, it had a very respectable reputation, making such great flicks as The Ladykillers and the The Lavender Hill Mob. Since being re-energized in the late '90s, the studio has occasionally shied away from period pictures and adaptations of classic works to bring us a modern comedy, like Shaun Of The Dead, and I Want Candy is its latest offering, and a very welcome one at that. If only the exhibition by Magnolia was a bit less skin deep, it could have fared better on box office and DVD. All the same, the film is recommended as a jolly-good comedy.
The film is found not guilty. Magnolia is free to go due to an acceptable DVD treatment, but is given a warning to be more mature with their promotion. Court is adjourned!
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