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Fri July 7, 2006
Strangers with Candy
A bit of a stranger to the world of film.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
You may decide not to read further as I disclose I watch no television, seemingly making me unqualified to judge Strangers with Candy, a "prequel" to the Comedy Central series starring Amy Sedaris as Jerri Blank, a twisted 47-year-old junkie prostitute. Before you go away, consider that I may be the perfect critic for the task because I come innocent and pure of expectation baggage from that show.
Comparisons with the TV show are out. Now for the purity: Sedaris invests her entire comedic energy in a scrunched-faced, middle-aged, hyper-sexed, irreverent, daffy ex-con who tries to pull her daddy out of a coma she induced decades ago when she went to prison. The vehicle is returning to finish high school and entering a science fair. New director Paul Dinello, from the Colbert Report, who also plays an uptight bi-sexual science teacher, does an admirable job of keeping the plot strands moving along and allowing Sedaris the many dull moments inevitable in a comedic film whose writing is uneven but inspired for the off-beat premise alone.
Along the corridors of Flatpoint High come Sara Jessica Parker as a misguided guidance counselor and her real-life husband, Matthew Broderick, as a science star teacher imported by Principal Onyx Blackman (Gregory Holliman), himself a stereotype of an inept, oversexed black man. Together with conservative school board members Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Allison Janney the cameos are often better than the leads.
Strangers with Candy is apparently a send up of the teenage after-school TV dramas. I just don't find scatology and promiscuity that funny on the big screen, much less the contortions an otherwise cute Sedaris goes through to mangle her face. Somehow the translation from the small screen to the large has lost its bite. One of the running gags is Jerri's infatuation with a hunky senior, who does not share the affection. The homely heroine has an uncomfortable flirtation spurred by his desire to steal her team's science project plans. Only when Jerri's "family," with unconscious dad present, eats dinner did I laugh aloud at the barbs and food flying in every direction. The montage of her prison and street experiences was also amusing.
This film is the first production of David Letterman's Worldwide Pants Inc. But then I don't watch Letterman. My index is film, and Strangers with Candy is a bit of a stranger in that medium.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com