Candy is for kids but the candy business is most definitely not. At least that is the impression I was left with after watching Candyman: The David Klein Story.
David Klein is the inventor of Jelly Belly jelly beans. His story is one of the eccentric entrepreneur who makes magic happen only to see the greatest fruits of his labor go to others. You see Klein sold Jelly Belly to his partners after he was strong armed into doing so. Sure, he made millions on the sale but that is a small consolation prize in comparison to the hundreds of millions made off the product ever since. Still, Klein never comes off as bitter in the documentary. He’s a hard worker with a gentle soul. More Woz than Jobs one might say.
Highly charismatic on camera, Klein makes for an interesting subject regardless of the bitter-sweet Jelly Belly story. His life is full of color and surrounded by no shortage of oddball characters. This is where the first and final acts of the movie excel. Those acts are focused on the man more than how that man lost out on many millions of dollars. It is in the middle that the movie loses its bounce as it bogs down on the intricate details of how Klein ended up selling his magic beans for a cow (as his son put it). The story is of great interest but the lack of getting to know these mostly faceless bad guys who swindled the good natured Jelly Belly inventor removes all the drama. There are probably good reasons these men weren’t portrayed in-depth. I’m sure they wouldn’t be thrilled with the prospects of being portrayed as poorly as their actions earned them. Then again, didn’t Billy Mitchell do just that in King of Kong? And didn’t Joyce McKinney open herself up to the same scrutiny in Errol Morris’ most recent doc Tabloid? I guess not everyone wants to be in a movie.
Even though we feel bad for Klein’s predicament with Jelly Belly there is a sense of joy that remains throughout. The man remains hopeful that not everyone is out to pull a fast one on him. Besides, he’s still making all sorts of candy and selling it to this day. It may not be millions of dollars worth but that doesn’t seem to bother the candyman. He keeps on doing what he does best.