Thursday, July 06, 2006


Strangers with Candy*

Although it doggedly insists on killing time with low-grade race and fart jokes, Strangers with Candy scores enough decent laughs through a calculated cast of comedic performers to sustain its loony 83 minutes. Amy Sedaris, adapting her character from Comedy Central’s deservedly defunct TV series, is a purely physical comedian, cackling and jeering her way through a flimsy story, essentially owning it. She plays Jerri Blank, an aging ex-street thug with an absurdly inflated record, returning from jail to find her beloved father comatose. Poised to wake him up with good spirits (and urged on by the giddy family doctor, hilariously portrayed by Ian Holm), Jerri returns to high school and fields locker room social sharks while aiming to win the science fair. Cue the vignettes.

Just when Sedaris’ geriatric time bomb persona starts to get weary, Stephen Colbert saves the day. Playing the school’s quirky science teacher (the second of The Daily Show gang to do so, following Jon Stewart’s more restrained role in The Faculty) Colbert is essentially riffing on his mock-O’Reilly persona, a cross-reference that enables him and the film’s other random personalities to enhance their pop culture immortality (Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Kristie Alley all drop in, possibly along their way to more refined projects).

With no solid structure but a consistently caustic wit, Candy often has a surrealist tone that makes it more comparable to the classroom scenes in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life or Luis Bunuel’s The Phantom of Liberty—rather than Mean Girls— but it’s obviously less inspired. In terms of the premise, Billy Madison does it better, but that’s not saying much.

*A trunctated version of this review was published this week in the New York Press.


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