Strangers With Candy

2006, Movie, R, 87 mins

Review

STRANGERS WITH CANDY
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When it comes right down to it, there are two kinds of people in this world: Those who despised Comedy Central's notorious series Strangers with Candy as the rudest, crudest and most offensive show ever to appear on television, and those who loved it for those very reasons. Created by Amy Sedaris and her costars Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert, the show revolved around revolting Jerri Blank (Sedaris), a "boozer, a user and a loser" who, after years of life on the streets as a junkie petty thief and prostitute, followed by a stretch in women's prison, decides to pick up where she left off over 30 years ago: She moves back in with her family and re-enrolls at Flatpoint High. The idea of dropping a hardened, amoral criminal whose hideously outdated wardrobe barely conceals track marks and prison tats was part of the show's bizarre genius; another was that each episode was structured like an after-school special, with Jerri learning lessons so decidedly un-PC they defy quotation. Tragically, the show was canceled midway through its third and best season, and die-hard fans immediately began buzzing about the rumored feature-length Strangers with Candy prequel. They might be a little disappointed: Haphazardly directed by Dinello, it isn't so much a prequel as a rethinking of the show's pilot. But if you loved the series, that's not entirely a bad thing. Fresh (well, as fresh as she'll ever be) out of prison, Jerri returns home to find that her abrupt departure not only killed her mother but threw her father (Dan Hedaya) into a grief-induced coma. Avuncular Dr. Putney (Ian Holm) suggests that Jerri might be able to rouse him if she could prove herself the good daughter she never was, so it's back to school, where Jerri sets her sights on winning first prize in the Flatpoint High science fair. Principal Onyx Blackman (Greg Hollimon) also has a lot riding on the outcome: He's been warned by two school-board members (Allison Janney, Philip Seymour Hoffman) that if Flatpoint doesn't make a strong showing, they'll pull the funding Blackman needs to cover his gambling debts. It's up to Jerri to save her father and Flatpoint High, and learn a lesson about people's capacity for change: They can't. The slightly bigger budget means that Jerri and her disgusted classmates can run with the bulls in the girls' gym, but either Sedaris and company have lost their will to truly outrage, or they're hoping to reach a wider audience with less offensive material. Either way, their big-screen bid lacks the bite — make that the gap-toothed, plaque-encrusted overbite — of the original. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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