DVD Review: Strangers With Candy
By April MacIntyre Nov 20, 2006, 14:38 GMT
Can we change? Sure.
Boozer, user and loser Jerri Blank, played by Amy Sedaris, is a 47-year-old self-confessed junkie whore who picks herself back up, dusts off a bit and tries to be the good girl she never intended to be in high school, in the politically incorrect prequel to the cult Comedy Central television series.
Originally created as a parody of after school specials and movies, "Strangers" presented social problem drama that skewed the moral lesson at the end of every episode. Amy Sedaris and co-creators Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello reprise their TV roles along with Greg Hollimon as the cheerfully corrupt and not at all shy Principal Blackman, and guest stars Philip Seymour Hoffman; Kristen Johnston as the failed Pamplona bull running paraplegic coach; Allison Janney; Matthew Broderick in a great turn as Roger Beekman, the science fair gun for hire teacher and arch nemesis to Colbert's "Noblet"; and Sarah Jessica Parker as Peggy Callas, the grief counselor with a time clock and a tip jar on her desk.
Strangers the movie is a limited representation of the spirit of the series, a good prequel, enjoyable if you were a fan of the show. Stephen Colbert fans will relish his born again Christian/science teacher role. There is a sign on teacher Noblet's desk that says "Jesus Satisfies" and the periodic table of elements in the back of his room is in the shape of a cross. This film isn't going to appeal to everyone's comedy taste, it is conceptual and completely irreverent. If you thought or still think Borat is a real reporter from Kazakhstan, don't bother.
The movie begins with just a brushstroke of a back story and then picks up pretty much where the series did, following the re-entry of Jerri Blank, an ex-con, former prostitute and recovering drug addict, into her old life as she returns to high school some 30 years after dropping out.
Written by its lead actors, Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello and Amy Sedaris, the film mostly revolves around Jerri's team effort in the school science fair and misplaced lustful yearnings for big-boy-on-campus, Brason, who plays a sort of straight man to Jerri's dialogical treats: "Monica's having a party do you want to be my date?" "I want your spermies!" replies Blank. "I'll take that as a yes," says Brason.
The series was always an off kilter mockumentary styled satire of cheesy 70's and 80's after-school specials. The show's crown jewel is Amy Sedaris' heady concoction of worn out ex-con Jerri Blank: crazy facial tics, god-awful hair, eyes askew, saddlebags that jut out at right angles, and bad clothes as a visually jarring contrast amidst clean-cut kids in a suburban school.
Strangers was shot by first time director and co star Paul Dinello, and lensed by gifted DP Oliver Bokelberg (The Station Agent), and his eye shows in the different set ups, with some very funny physical comedy being highlighted by deft shot framing.
Extemporaneous humor and sly anarchy are the modus operandi of Sedaris, whose mentions in her author brother David Sedaris' short story memoirs are always the best reads. My favorite Amy story was the crowded subway sequence when she bid her brother farewell from the exit. As the doors shut, Sedaris cheerfully yelled to her brother "I just know you'll beat those rape charges." He is left in his fraternal mortification among his glaring fellow riders.
I enjoyed this film and find parts of it hysterically funny and well scripted, and other parts that fall a bit flat. If the reaction to this film were to be compared to a condiment, it would be mayonnaise. Either adored and slathered on in heaps, or causing complete revulsion and avoided at all costs. However, the metaphor doesn't really hold true considering the fact that I was a devotee of the television series, am a Colbert fan, love Sedaris' style of humor, but despise mayonnaise - so go figure.
The movie is, in essence, polarizing amidst newcomers to the world that Jerri inhabits and long-time followers of the show. For the people that will enjoy it, the movie is wonderful. For those that fail to find the humor in the film or the show, the movie will probably prove disappointing.
The film is directed by Paul Dinello and written by Stephen Colbert, Dinello, Amy Sedaris. The film’s producers are Mark Roberts, Lorena David, Valerie Schaer Nathanson. Director of photography was Oliver Bokelberg, and the film’s editor was Michael R. Miller.
Extras include filmmaker commentary by Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello; Deleted Scenes; "Atomic Car" Music Video; and a Trailer
"Strangers" is another interesting offering from THINKfilm, they've had some unusual and thought provoking releases for this year. The film is easily a four out of five stars for Sedaris fans. Stangers to Sedaris’ comedy may only rate it a three out of five stars.