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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.57%
Worth A Look: 8.57%
Pretty Bad: 20%
Total Crap: 20%

4 reviews, 11 user ratings

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Strangers With Candy
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by Chris Parry

"Absolutely hilarious... at first. Then the story kicks in."
3 stars

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.

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originally posted: 02/13/05 09:42:12
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2006 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2006 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
TV to Screen: For more in the TV to Screen series, click here.

User Comments

4/12/08 John Millheim It was alot better than I thought it would be. had some decent comedy 4 stars
2/05/07 William Goss Not nearly as good as the show. Colbert provides most of few laughs. 2 stars
12/08/06 Susan Striaght I loved this movie-Amy Sedaris rocks!! You are crazy! 5 stars
8/08/06 21spaceboy Great movie, though only fans of the show will truly appreciate it 5 stars
7/31/06 Davina Loughed out loud many times. Not as good as show though. 5 stars
7/25/06 BoyInTheDesignerBubble A brilliant tv show, ahead of its time. 4 stars
7/08/06 Gerry Irons Better than the show 3 stars
6/28/06 Ken Patrick It didn't suck quite as much as the TV show. 1 stars
6/20/06 Blackbrain An Afterschool Special from Hell. Funny from beginning to end. 4 stars
4/15/05 Raymond Montoya crazy people make crazy things 3 stars
1/26/05 PolkaBoy Starts with a bang, but peters out to a boring finish. 3 stars
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  28-Jun-2006 (R)
  DVD: 14-Nov-2006



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