Strangers With Candy movie reviews
By Francesca Dinglasan, from Boxoffice Magazine
STRANGERS WITH CANDY
Starring Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, Carlo Alban, Maria Thayer, Paul Dinello, Deborah Rush, Gregory Hollimon and Matthew Broderick. Directed by Paul Dinello. Written by Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello and Amy Sedaris. Produced by Mark Roberts, Lorena David and Valerie Schaer Nathanson. A Thinkfilm release. Comedy. Not yet rated. Running time: 97 min.
At once wholly silly and delectably bizarre, "Strangers With Candy" is an amalgamation of slapstick, straight-faced satire and just plain old rudeness that makes for a very good time. Based on the Comedy Central small-screen series that has developed a loyal cult following, "Strangers With Candy" reunites the writers and cast of the original television show, blowing up the cartoonish qualities of the characters in relation to the big screen.
The film opens as a prequel to the television show, with 47-year-old Jerri Blank (Amy Sedaris)famously known as a "boozer, user and loser"returning to her childhood home after years in prison. Having run away when she was 15 years old, she is surprised to discover that some major changes have occurred, most notably the addition of a stepmother (Deborah Rush) and a father (Dan Hedaya) that has been in a self-induced coma for 32 years. Wanting to help "daddy" snap out of his stupor, Jerri does the only thing logical in the world of "Strangers With Candy" by returning to high school to become the good student and ideal daughter she never was. Determined to enter and win the upcoming science fair, Jerri befriends smart nerds Tammi (Maria Thayer) and Megawatti (Carlo Alban), and together they compete against the cool-kid clique, who take advantage of Jerri's crush on class hunk Brason (Chris Pratt) to steal the smart kids' science-project plans. Intensifying the competition is a side rivalry that science teacher and head of Jerri's team Chuck Noblet (Stephen Colbert) has with repeat science-fair winner Roger Beekman (Matthew Broderick), who has been enlisted by Principal Onyx Blackman (Gregory Hollimon) to oversee the cool kids' science-fair entry.
Shining in the roles created to showcase their comedic talents, Amy Sedaris kills as the foul-mouthed, heavily made-up ex-con trying to fit in with peers 30 years her junior, while Stephen Colbert, maintaining the straightlaced demeanor he wears as an anchor on the fake news program "The Daily Show," is extremely winning as the Christian science instructor teaching Creationism and carrying on a secret love affair with art teacher Geoffrey (Paul Dinello).
That viewers must be willing to suspend belief is not only a vast understatement but really besides the point of "Strangers With Candy." A skewering satire, the film takes the oft-used big-screen backdrop of high school and produces a comedy for grown-ups, replacing toilet humor with biting dialogue and focusing on the (supposed) adults' interactions in the academic setting.
The worst that might be said about "Strangers With Candy" is that not all the jokes hit their target. But with the nonsense being nonstop, any misses are quickly forgotten in the film's onslaught of irony.
By Daniel Wible, from FilmThreat
STRANGERS WITH CANDY
2004, Un-rated, 97 minutes
Jerri Blank is everyone’s favorite user, boozer, and loser. Okay, maybe not everyone’s, but for those rabid followers of the cancelled cult television show “Strangers With Candy,” Jerri, as portrayed by the brilliant Amy Sedaris, was like a breath of fresh comedic air, albeit one with a toxic aftertaste. Lasting only three seasons, from 1999 to 2001, the loved-hated Comedy Central show and its 47-year-old ex-con junkie whore were undeniable originals in a sea of mediocrity. Personally, I was hardly religious about the show (I rarely am), but was always amused, and a bit creeped out, when I caught it. Now here we are, four years later, faced with the return of Jerri Blank in her own feature film, whether we asked for it or not. Should we care? Is Jerri’s a welcome and necessary return to the limelight? Well, your feelings on the original series will obviously play a major factor in your reception of the film version, which, for its part, is faithful to its deranged spirit. Diehards will rejoice, while haters will probably not be converted. For those like me, curious channel surfers with a decidedly oddball sensibility, the “Strangers With Candy” film is a hit-or-miss curiosity that nonetheless feels welcome in the era of “Fat Albert”.
The cast and writers (Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, and Paul Dinello) of the original series were wisely reunited for this film adaptation, actually a prequel, which takes us back to when Jerri, a self-professed “junkie jack-in-the-box”, was first released from prison. During a hilarious opening segment, Jerri’s experiences in the big bird cage play like a Pam-Grier-women-prison-film highlight reel. Following her release, Jerri decides to turn her life around and finally go home after a 32-year descent into depravity. Yet upon arriving at her childhood home, Jerri is shocked to discover that her mother is long dead and her father, remarried to an uber-bitch, lies helpless in a coma. (As the saying goes, ex-con junkie whores can truly never go home.) Devastated, Jerri does what anyone would do in such a situation: she goes back to high school in an effort to “pick up from where she left off” and impress her father into waking from his condition. Jerri soon discovers that high school isn’t all that different from prison and that to succeed in things like the school science fair, it’s best to recruit a bad-ass posse, or in this case, lots of Koreans and Indians.
As expected, “Strangers With Candy” is chock-full of offensive stereotypes and puerile in-jokes. From the gambling-addicted, appropriately named Principal Blackman (Gregory Hollimon) to the flamboyantly gay art teacher Mr. Jellineck (co-screenwriter and first-time helmer Paul Dinello), the film plays like an ABC Afterschool Special on crack. Delicious cameos by the likes of Matthew Broderick as the P.T. Barnum of regional science fairs and his wife Sarah Jessica Parker as a horny grief counselor with a tip jar only add to the film’s generous lunacy. Though the film suffers the same lame fate of many one-joke, skit-worthy “high” concepts, “Strangers With Candy” is worth seeing if but for two reasons alone: Amy Sedaris and Stephen Colbert. The latter simply kills as Mr. Noblet, a bisexual science teacher who teaches from the Bible, having recently found God. The “Daily Show” veteran has never been funnier than he is here, and that’s saying a lot. But as good as Colbert is, he takes a back seat to Sedaris as she of the distinctive overbite and disturbingly hyperactive libido. As Jerri, Sedaris is so goofy and twisted that you easily forget what a cutie she is in real life. Though it takes obvious, Depp-level talent to so fully create such characters, I only wish Sedaris and company would take themselves, and their audience, slightly more seriously and deliver the comic gold they were born to deliver.
By Chris Parry, from efilmcritic.com
Strangers With Candy
SCREENED AT THE 2005 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: As a complete newbie when it comes to the Strangers With Candy movement, I was shocked and amazed by the number of people desperate to get into this Sundance screening. Press, celebrities, the general public, it was insanity. "All this for a Comedy Central movie?", I wondered, "It's got to be good..." Well it was. It was hilarious. It was gutbustingly great. It was stupendously stupid. It had me at hello. And then it happened - the event that kills every great comedy idea cold... the storyline.
For the uninitiated, Jerri Blank (Amy Sedaris) is a 46-year-old ex-junkie, ex-con sex fiend who has decided to go back to high school and get her life together. Serving as a prequel to the TV series, the film charts her return to the family fold, where her father is in a coma and not long for this world. Told that only his love for his children can bring him back, Jerri becomes convinced that graduating high school will bring daddy home, so she enrolls in school and sets about dominating the scholarly landscape. Only she's borderline retarded, completely unable to focus on anything for longer than a few seconds, and more than a little attracted to her female classmates.
And at least as far as this part of the story goes, the audience is dying. Tears of laughter. The first half hour of this movie made me understand why the show is so widely respected, and why David Letterman felt compelled to sign on as Executive Producer. Sedaris is incredible, a face-contorting comedy genius that delivers five laughs for every actual scripted joke, simply by owning the background of every shot and making every move hysterical. Alongside her, Stephen Colbert (The Daily Show), playing her teacher, doubles the dosage and has you in tears. Principal Blackman (Greg Hollimon) takes things to a whole new level, and a cavalcade of cameos (Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Ian Holm, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Dan Hedaya, Allison Janney - the list goes on) keeps things moving.
But just as almost always happens with high concept comedies, the storyline can't hold enough water to keep you at that initial high laughter level. Setting the scene, it's five-star stuff, but once the scene is set (Jerri has to win the Science Fair to get her father healthy), the filmmakers have to stick with it, which takes you away from the 'anything goes' world of the first act and plonks you down into the 'how are they going to finish this thing' third. It's a disappointment, and a major anti-climax, to have started so strongly and then plumbed the depths so quickly.
It is admittedly rare for a comedy such as this to maintain the laughs throughout (the Slamdance 2005 film The Dry Spell manages this like few others have), but the drop-off in Strangers With Candy is just too hard, and too noticeable, to let it get away with anything more than a passing grade. Pun intended.
By Dennis Harvey, from Variety
Strangers With Candy
A whimper was heard across the land when Comedy Central skein "Strangers With Candy" was canceled in 2001 after three seasons. An instant cult fave, the absurdist spoof of Afterschool Specials now is back in a prequel that reunites its original collaborators (abetted by several guest stars) and reps the first theatrical feature effort for David Letterman's Worldwide Pants shingle. Warner Independent Pictures ponied up $3 million at Sundance for North American rights to a pic that will delight the previously converted, but, as film is just as hit-and-miss as the series was, accessing broader auds could prove a challenge.
After 32 years on the street, on the lam and in the joint as a "boozer, user and loser," ex-prostitute/junkie Jerri Blank (Amy Sedaris) decides to start again "right where I left off"as a high school student. Never mind that she's almost three times the age of her classmates or that she's not particularly welcome back in the home where daddy (Dan Hedaya) is in a coma, and "mommy" is his hostile second wife (Deborah Rush). Latter not only has a moronic jock son (Joseph Cross) but also a butcher boyfriend (David Pasquesi) pretty much living on the premises.
Faithfully reproducing TV version's unique flavor, these and even odder circumstances are taken in stride by characters alternately venal and oblivious. "Candy's" funhouse-mirror vision of all-American suburban life observes perverse behavior with incongruous good cheer and ersatz schmaltzy "uplift," while the incessantly voiced racist and homophobic remarks are so pointedly ludicrous that they parody prejudice itself.
Convinced that only her becoming the "good girl" she never was will rouse daddy from his slumber, Jerri sets about being an exemplary student at Flatpoint Highdespite immediate antagonism from Principal Blackman (Gregory Hollimon) and science teacher Mr. Noblet (Stephen Colbert). Latter is a born-again Creationist with wife and child who's having an on/off gay affair with sweetly idiotic art teacher Mr. Jellineck (first-time helmer and co-scenarist Paul Dinello). Meanwhile, Blackman, in danger of losing funding, tries to up the school's low academic rep by hiring vainglorious Roger Beekman (Matthew Broderick) as a consultant. He's to steer them toward a Science Fair wina move that humiliates home-team prof Noblet, who in protest assembles his own rival student team.
Jerri figures winning the Science Fair will solve her problems. But her methods are somewhat appalling to teenaged teammates Tammi (Maria Thayer) and Megawatti (Carlo Alban). Subterfuge on both sides culminates in a pretty funny climax wherein the rival sides present elaborate musical production numbers to showcase their competing science projects.
As in the original series, inspired jokes run neck-and-neck with flat ones. Still, the faux "instructive" tone (full of ostensible life lessons that couldn't be more amoral) and rack of offbeat characterizations keeps things diverting. Sedaris' central creation Jerri, with her grotesque overbite, worst-of-the-'70s fashion sense and blithely appalling libidinousness toward hotties of both sexes, remains a spectacular comic turn.
Hilarious Dinello and Colbert highlight the remaining cast of tube holdovers. Among newbies, Broderick has the most to do, while Allison Janney and Philip Seymour Hoffman juice their few scenes as quarrelsome school board members. Sarah Jessica Parker doesn't add much in a cameo as a narcissistic guidance counselor.
Dinello, who's only directed shorts before, replicates the original series' feel with assurance, if without any extra dimension that might've made this bigscreen edition an improvement rather than mere continuance. Design and tech contribs are sharp on a modest budget.
Camera (color), Oliver Bokelberg; editor, Michael R. Miller; music, Marcelo Zar; production designer, Teresa Mastropierro; art director, Mylene Santos; set decorator, Siobhan Flaherty; costume deigner, Victoria Farrell; sound (Dolby Digital), Sandy Berman; assistant director, Jeffrey Lazar; casting, Joseph Middleton. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Midnight), Jan. 24, 2005. Running time: 97 MIN.