Semi-Sweet Candy 

Strangers off cable, semi-funny on silver screen

“Ummmmm.” If you’re not familiar with the 1999 to 2000 television show, Strangers With Candy, that’s probably what you’ll be muttering under your breath if you try to watch the new theatrical prequel to the show bearing the same name. I can’t tell you the film is good. I liked it, mind you. And I will recommend it to my roommate. But "good" is not a word I will include anywhere in my synopsis.

Stephen Colbert cracks me up. If you don’t know who Colbert is, you need to turn on Comedy Central tout suite. If you don’t know what Comedy Central is, you need to put down the granola, close the National Geographic and order cable immediately.

This entire movie reeks of Colbert and, though the story is told through the eyes of washed up ex-convict, ex-junky Jerri Blank (played by Amy Sedaris) as she attempts to restart her life by heading back to high school at age 46 (and though the script was written by Sedaris), Colbert and director/costar Paul Dinello, it’s really a film that would’ve been fit for the toilet rather than the screen if Cobert hadn’t been there to deliver his trademarked staunchly serious punchlines. You’ve heard of The Daily Show, yes? Well, he helped make that show what it is today (now having his own spinoff to show for it), and he makes this movie tolerable, even enjoyable to watch.

If you know the show—whether you’re a fan or not—then you know what to expect from the film. Virtually the entire cast is back, but now includes cameos from Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, brilliant veteran Sir Ian Holm (recently Zach Braff’s dad in Garden State), The West Wing’s Allison Janney, the ever-youthful Matthew Broderick and his Sexpot wife, Sarah Jessica Parker, among others. How they managed to nail down such a diverse and talented cast, even in bit parts, is beyond me. But they did, and every famous face you see aids the film a little.

If the short-lived sitcom is not something you’re familiar with, then you’re in for, ummmmm, something new. Imagine if Drew Barrymore from Never Been Kissed was 20 years older and fatter and uglier and more abrasive and foul-mouthed and had spent time in prison with a drug habit. Then maybe you’d get a taste for Jerri Blank. It’s quite a transformation Sedaris goes through to get in character, a fact you almost completely overlook until you see pictures of the little sister of humorist David Sedaris, looking just cute as a button in real life.

Colbert, Sedaris and Dinello (Dinello delivering the weakest of the three performances), though clearly offering something behind the camera, are all alums of Chicago’s Second City comedy troupe, and both the show and film feel a lot like hokey sketch comedy—of which I happen to be a fan.

The film doesn’t break any new ground. But it’s just outrageous and goofy enough to keep your attention span from wandering for an hour and a half.

Strangers With Candy opens Friday, July 21, at The Flicks.

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