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STRANGERS WITH CANDY (director/writer: Paul Dinello; screenwriter: Stephen Colbert/Amy Sedaris; cinematographer: Oliver Bokelberg; editor: Michael R. Miller; music: Marcelo Zarvos; cast: Amy Sedaris (Jerri Blank), Stephen Colbert (Chuck Noblet), Paul Dinello (Geoffrey Jellineck), Deborah Rush (Sara Blank), Maria Thayer (Tammi Littlenut), Chris Pratt (Brason), Elisabeth Harnois (Monica), Gregory Hollimon (Principal Blackman), Dan Hedaya (Guy Blank), Matthew Broderick (Roger Beekman), Carlo Alban (Megawati Sukarnoputri), David Pasquesi (Stew), Joseph Cross (Derrick Blank), Ian Holm (Dr. Putney), Sarah Jessica Parker (Peggy Callas, Grief Counselor), Allison Janney (Alice), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Henry), Kristen Johnston (Coach Divers), David Pasquesi (Stew); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Mark Roberts/Lorena David/Valerie Schaer Nathanson; ThinkFilm; 2005)
“… for the most part is not particularly funny.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A prequel to Amy Sedaris’ failed cult Comedy Central TV series Strangers with Candy. It plows full steam ahead with absurd humor that is gross, filled with spite, childish jokes, not PC, contingent on a constant barrage of no-holds-barred lowbrow comic relief and for the most part is not particularly funny. It can only be admired for how shamefully repugnant and ridiculous it is without toning down its insulting type of humor. It’s directed in a zany and careless manner by Paul Dinello, who also stars as a gay art teacher and is co-writer with Stephen Colbert and the main star Amy Sedaris.

Jerri Blank (Amy Sedaris) is a 46-year-old high school dropout, a loser with a sunny disposition, and a false perception that she’s good looking; she’s an ex-prostitute, ex-junkie, and ex-con, who when released from prison after a long stretch decides to turn her life around by returning to high school. Jerri returns home to find her mother is dead and her daddy (Dan Hedaya) is in a coma, and there’s a hostile stepmother named Sara (Deborah Rush) to greet her. She will later meet Sara’s equally hostile high school student son Derrick (Joseph Cross) and Sara’s hostile meatman boyfriend (David Pasquesi). Only the family doctor (Ian Holm) treats her nicely, as he spends his time at her dad’s bedside while saying there’s no way to revive him (which I guess is supposed to be funny).

At school Jerri introduces herself to the pompous asshole black principal named Mr. Blackman (Gregory Hollimon), who is under pressure from two school board members (Allison Janney & Philip Seymour Hoffman) because he might have doctored the test scores; she also meets the discouraging fruity art teacher Geoffrey (Paul Dinello); goes for counseling to a heartless grief counselor (Sarah Jessica Parker), who keeps on her desk a tip box; and is enrolled in the science class of the hysterical reborn Christian Chuck Noblet (Stephen Colbert). The anxiety-ridden married teacher has just broken up with Geoffrey.

If he wins a county science fair project, the principal will prove to the school board he’s on top of things; this tiresome plot line takes on the bulk of the picture’s second half. Jerri uses her prison experience to work with a team of mostly Asian nerds mentored by Noblet, who are competing with a team of jocks and popular students mentored by the oily, egotistical, and unscientific but most successful science fair project winner–rival science teacher–Mr. Beekman (Matthew Broderick). The comedy is built around Jerri’s lewdness, her attraction to both males and females and her likability despite being such a crude and deplorable excuse for an adult.

The flimsy story line and the raunchy comedy felt like I was being force-fed to diet on a mediocre TV episode, whose big insult line goes like this: “You’re a fat goblin.” It’s also filled with plenty of dumb malapropisms such as Jerri asking “Will that soothe your savage breast?” and silly wordplays for names (like the Blank family) and for the high school (Flatpoint High School). The humor was a grabbag comedy of vulgar second-rate insults, deserving of an audience that craves this sort of tasteless and witless humor (just don’t include me in the mix).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”