Thursday, October 05, 2006

Strangers With Candy

Title: Strangers With Candy (2005)
Dir: Paul Dinello
Rating: *** out of 5 stars

I am a huge fan of the show, Strangers With Candy. That love alone earned this film the extra half-star on its rating. Unfortunately, the movie is kinda disappointing.

In this prequel, Amy Sedaris reprises her role as Jerri Blank, the middle-aged former junkie whore who returns to high school. Though inconsistent with the television series, the movie explains Jerri's "origin" story. Not her childhood (that would've been neat) but her life during and after prison. When she returns home, she discovers her daddy in a coma. In an effort to wake him up, Jerri tries to become a better person by returning to high school and subsequently winning a science fair.

Long-time Sedaris collaborators Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello also reprise their roles as Jerri's self-centered teachers, Chuck Noblet and Geoffrey Jellineck. Their secret, gay relationship becomes strained as Chuck dumps Geoffrey, who then joins forces with Chuck's nemesis (Matthew Broderick). And the wonderful Greg Holliman is back as Principal Blackman. There are a few unfortunate but understandable replacements - namely, Derek and Orlando. The film also boasts big-names like Sarah Jessica Parker, Allison Janney, Phillip Seymore Hoffman, Ian Holm, and Dan Hedaya.

Candy is enjoyable for any fan of the series because who doesn't love seeing their favorite characters return? But don't expect it to be nearly as good as the show - it isn't. Many jokes are recycled, which I understand (need to appeal to newbies) but it's still disappointing. The movie is like one of the show's weaker episodes, only three times as long.

There are quite a few inconsistencies, as well. Much of Jerri's backstory is changed, her daddy is different, Chuck is now a science teacher, and other little things. I can look passed them because I understand the need to draw new fans and make the story more concise, but some hard-headed fans might not be so tolerant.

The film's biggest problem, and biggest deviation from the show, is the format. SWC worked great as a series because it followed the format of short, after-school specials. Each episode was based around a new moral dilemma for Jerri and almost always ended with Jerri not learning her lesson. It was a great parody of those after-school programs. But as a film, SWC is forced to maintain a conhesive plot for almost two hours. And then it tries to be a genuine high school film. This absolutely does not work (Thank you, Alex, for helping me pinpoint this problem).

I'm really not sure if non-fans of the show would like this movie. If they did, they'd surely like the show a LOT more. The film is most appropriate for existing fans of SWC. Even though the film wasn't as funny as it could've been, I'd still love to see them make another one. I just love watching these characters, and I love it when Amy, Paul, and Stephen collaborate. If only they'd ressurect the series...I know, not a chance. Sigh.