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Director: Paul Dinello

Producers: Lorena David, Mark A. Roberts

Written by: Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello, Amy Sedaris

Cast: Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello, Greg Hollimon


So, I really wanted this to be a five-star movie. This is primarily because I love Stephen Colbert and consider him the third-best thing on television (after Jon Stewart and Trey Parker). But the thing about Colbert is that he’s what I’d call a slugger: He often misses the ball, but when he manages to connect, it’s magical. “Strangers With Candy” (the TV series) was much the same in its day, but those of us who loved it remember primarily the homeruns (and there were many). Well… this movie didn’t quite make it over the fence.

Strangers With Candy poses itself as a prequel to the series beginning with Jerri Blank’s (Sedaris) release from prison after 30-odd years of drugs, booze, and prostitution. She returns to the home that she ran away from in high school only to find a bitchy new stepmother, a wannabe jock half-brother, and a comatose father. After some questionable medical advice from the family doctor (who suggests that pride may return her father to his former self), Jerri decides to return to high school and be the best student she can be. The rest of her story is the epic struggle of Jerri Blank: constantly screwing over the geeks who inexplicably like her ugly, racist, 46-year-old ass in an attempt to be “cool.” Well, this can be kind of funny for a while (like, a 23-minute show?), but eventually it just gets tiring.

As in the TV show, the best moments have little or nothing to do with Jerri Blank. The homosexual relationship of the married science teacher, Mr. Noblet (Colbert), and the art teacher, Mr. Jellineck (Dinello), is very well done. There’s an appealing chemistry between Colbert and Dinello that I imagine goes back to their early days doing improv theater together. Principal Onyx Blackman (Hollimon) is also back, and, just as in the series, his character is perfectly crazy and one of the high points of the story. I only wish that these characters had more of a part to play in the film. Sometimes, as I sat in the theater watching Jerri get turned down by the cool kids again, or coming on to her female geek friend again, or being insulted by her stepmother again, or trying to score with a jock again, I found myself wishing to get back to the faculty’s plotline.

The movie also tries to pack a little star power, but the minor appearances of Matthew Broderick, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Sarah Jessica Parker seem pretty pointless. None of these actors actually seem to bring much to their respective roles. At the very least, Hoffman and Broderick play fairly well-written, funny characters, but Parker’s character exists for no reason beyond a silly joke involving a depressed grief counselor named Peggy Callas (haha…).

All in all, this was a disappointing movie for a big fan of the show. Whereas the series was a sort of parody on after-school specials, covering issues like sex, STDs, drugs, popularity, and, uh, strangers with candy, the movie tried to be just a silly high school comedy with far too little focus on the characters who really made the show something special. It is especially sad to be left with this movie as the last collaborative effort (or so it seems) of the minds behind “Strangers With Candy” considering that the series finale was so completely brilliant.

I want to recommend going to check out this movie if you’re a fan of the show and terribly bored some hot summer afternoon; you’ll probably have a better time just renting the series, though. But, if you are also a big fan of Colbert, his performance in the movie will not disappoint. That man can emote more than Calculon in a robot soap opera death scene.


—Allison Laubach

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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