Strange and Funny
Viewers with a warped sense of humor will probably gravitate toward Strangers with Candy, a prequel to the cult Comedy Central television series. Much of the credit for this belongs to Amy Sedaris, who treats her character like a lump of clay she's forever reshaping, molding or pounding down.
Jerri Blank (Sedaris) ran away from home 32 years ago. She turned to prostitution and became addicted to drugs and alcohol before becoming incarcerated. Returning home after three decades, Jerri learns that her mother is dead and that her father has been in a stress-induced coma for years. Dr. Putney (Ian Holm), astounded when Jerri’s father suddenly reacts to his daughter's touch, believes that if Jerri tries to redeem herself her father may wake out of his coma. That's why Jerri decides she must go back to Flat Point High School and earn a spot on the honor roll. She then enters a state science fair, planning on winning to save her father.
Jerri enrolls in Chuck Noblet’s (Stephen Colbert, in a standout performance) science class. Noblet has never opened his course's text book nor has he taught any of the school board's prescribed science curriculum. Instead, he rants and raves about various subjects, often forcing his strange beliefs, dangerous ideas, and opinions onto his students.
Because Principal Blackman (Gregory Hollimon, also outstanding here) is addicted to gambling, he owes money to bookies who want to cut off his head for failing to pay. In order to get extra funding which he plans to use to pay his debts, Blackman has lied to the school board about having students who are above average. School board members Henry (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and Alice (Allison Janney) issue an ultimatum for Blackman to prove within a week’s time that the high school has above average students or he must repay the school board.
Blackman knows his school must win the science fair to prove to the board some of his students are above average. He calls in Roger Beekman (Matthew Broderick), a teacher who led his past students to nine straight science fair victories. However, Noblet aims to make Beekman look foolish by defeating him after his advanced science students were reassigned to Beekman.
Despite her objections, Jerri gets cut from the science team by Noblet, who wants only the brightest of those left. After taking her grievances to Peggy Callis (Sarah Jessica Parker), the school grief counselor, she's reinstated on the team because of her father's condition. However, the note Callis writes costs Jerri her lunch money, for the counselor demands a gratuity.
Although Jerri lusts after Brason (Chris Pratt), he's interested only in girls like Monica (Elisabeth Harnois). When Beekman cannot come up with an idea for a science project 48 hours before the event, Brason and Monica plan to exploit Noblet's weakest link by having Brason take Jerri to Monica’s party. Brason is sent in for the kill as Jerri’s date. A lapse in judgment leads Jerri to allow Brason to walk away with the blueprints for Noblet's project -- even though she was told to guard them with her life. How will this impact Jerri's mission to save her father?
Despite some excellent comic turns -- especially by Sedaris, Colbert and Hollimon -- people who lack a broad sense of humor are not the intended audience for Strangers with Candy. It's those viewers with a twisted way of looking at things who should appreciate this movie the most.
Strangers with Candy makes its Canadian Premiere at the world renowned Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal. The film opens in Toronto and Vancouver July 21st. For more information visit the official website.
(Released by ThinkFilm and rated "R" for sexual content, language and some drug material.)
Review also posted at www.movie-critiques.com.