Costa Botes | 76 min | 2010 | New Zealand + US
Via friends, relatives, and other uncritical sort, Candyman: The David Klein Story tells the tale of the inventor of Jelly Belly jelly beans who had his work ruthlessly stolen from him by a faceless corporation. Or not. David Klein came up with the concept for gourmet jelly beans in the late seventies. He worked hard in tandem with an established confection company to develop the highest quality product and his natural sales and showmanship took Jelly Belly to the top shelf of candy products. Many names and faces related to Klein's business dealings are thrown around in the early portion of the film making them difficult to keep track of, but the larger picture of Klein's life and the candy's development are reasonably easy to follow. What becomes clear late into the murk of this picture is that Klein is a very friendly man with very little business acumen. Whether the result of altruism or not, he made several poor decisions with his business and no longer owns the Jelly Belly name and the once popular face of the brand is now forgotten.
Tellingly, both of Klein's children have producer credits on the movie. Candyman is a love letter to dad and an effort to restore his legacy, and it suffers greatly from family trips down memory lane and anecdotes about what a great, kooky fella Klein is. Even at only 76 minutes the movie feels heavily padded. The final act soliloquies from Klein's son and a lengthy aside about Ronald Reagan are among the elements that feel completely out of place and tacked on to hit the feature length mark. Weird Al Yankovic even has several scenes, for God's sake. At first I assumed his presence was due to him being a family friend, but soon it becomes clear: no, Weird Al is simply a candy enthusiast. He frequently describes Jelly Belly candies as "quite good."
The financial details of Klein's deal with the company who now owns Jelly Belly are not mentioned until near the close of the film. I suspect it is because those details make it even more difficult to relate to Klein's "trials." Klein is fond of hyperbole and speaking about how Jelly Belly "ruined his life," but what Jelly Belly actually did was provide him with a significant income for most of his adult life without robbing him of the chance to complain about it. That is a tough struggle to get behind.
Candyman plays Hot Docs on May 1 and 4. Check here for schedule and watch the trailer here.