Each year near the end of October, I scour video stores and netflix.com for films in hopes of assembling a horror movie marathon. But my attempts always fail. Between the difficulty in finding titles in-stock that I haven't yet seen and simply finding free time, I'm usually lucky if I can squeeze in a single frightening film before the holiday passes. Discovering that the birthday of one of my favorite comic actors falls on Oct. 31, I said screw it and adopted an entirely new style of Halloween candy this year: the late John Candy.
Over the course of a week, I watched a bowlful of Candy films. For a moment, my festival seemed built for All Hallows Eve. I made it through 25 minutes of his putridly unfunny final film, Wagons East, in which Old West settlers hire a drunken trail boss (Candy) to guide them back to the East Coast. I had to shut it off 25 minutes in for fear it would give me nightmares--the kind where I arrive at school in my underwear.
But I knew that in his heyday, Candy was a comic genius. In Stripes (1981), Volunteers (1985) and Who's Harry Crumb (1989), he takes the lovable oaf to new heights. Whether Candy dons disguises, storms the jungle in a trance or wrestles bikini babes in a mud pit, I am powerless to stop giggling.
Per imdb.com, a career slump prompted Candy to attempt more serious films in the early '90s, and while his bit part as a shady Southern lawyer in JFK (1991) definitely didn't sell me on his versatility, Disney's uplifting Jamaican bobsledding dramedy Cool Runnings showed Candy could, however, do sweet and fun without relying on goofy.
Still, it was roles in John Hughes films that made Candy a legend. In Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987), The Great Outdoors (1998), Uncle Buck (1989) and even in a bit part in Home Alone (1990) you get classic Candy: the physical comedy, quick wit, understated but hilarious facial expressions and that contagious Candy-coated laugh.
It's sad to think he only made it to age 44. How many movies, parts and jokes did the world miss out on with John Candy's passing? It's hard to say, but I know that if I only ever get this kind of Candy on Halloween from now on, I'll be more than happy.
That being said, if you care to join me next year for Halloween Candy 2010, I love Twix, so bring some of those with you.