In 10 Words or Less
Longer isn't always better
Loves: "Strangers with Candy," Stephen Colbert
Likes: Amy Sedaris, Principal Blackman
Dislikes: Jerri Blank
Hates: Being disappointed
Excitement is not the emotion I, a fan of "Strangers with Candy," felt
when I heard the series was being converted into a feature-length movie.
Only when the original source material is reimagined or used purely as
inspiration, like the satirical "The Brady Bunch Movie," does the
transition from TV to movie usually work. The differences between the
two mediums are too substantial to overcome easily.
Here, the film acts as a prequel to the series, showing Jerri Blank (Amy
Sedaris) as she returns home from prison, and adjusts to her new life.
The time that passed between the series' end and the film has resulted
in some changes to the cast, including the unfortunate replacement of
Jerri's dad with Dan Hedaya, which changed the value of the character
Though the faces have changed, the story has stayed the same, just with
a lot more time to tell it, time that they probably didn't need. In fact
there's nothing in this film they couldn't have done in the series,
including the guest stars, which they had regularly. To be honest, I
can't figure out why this movie exists, other than to allow the creators
to visit the SWC playground again.
The story is similar to the tales the series' told, as Principal
Blackman (the wonderfully over-the-top Greg Hollimon) has to justify the
funds he's been stealing from the school and sees the upcoming science
fair as his chance. To ensure the victory, he recruits superstar science
teacher Roger Beekman (Matthew Broderick), a move that frustrates
Flatpoint High science teacher Chuck Noblet (Stephen Colbert). It gets
worse when Noblet's "friend," art teacher Geoffrey Jellineck (Paul
Dinello) joins forces with Beekman, after being rebuffed by Noblet.
As would be expected, it comes down to Jerri to save the day, after
managing to ruin it in every possible way. In between, the bizarre
nature of high school and the Blank family is viewed through Jerri's
hazy eyes. Though her home life, including late-series addition Stew the
Meat Man, doesn't provide anything really new, Colbert, Dinello and a
host of others, including Allison Janney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as
members of the school board and Sarah Jessica Parker as a grief
counselor, make high school funnier than it's ever been.
While the movie is certainly enjoyable and should be welcomed by fans of
the series, it doesn't reach the heights the show did, limited by the
time to fill and the slower pace dictated in film. If they tried to
replicate the feel of the show over 90 minutes of movie, audiences would
tire out quickly, and the filmmakers would run out of material just as
fast. Making a TV movie (bringing the parody closer in line with those
old afterschool specials) or a multi-episode arc would have made for a
better return to Flatpoint.
A standard keepcase holds the one-disc release, which features an animated anamorphic widescreen main menu, with options to watch the film, adjust the set-up, select scenes or check out the special features. Language options include Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 English tracks, along with Spanish subtitles and English closed captioning.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer on this film looks great, with vibrant color and excellent detail. With no dirt or damage, nor any digital artifacts, there's nothing to not like about the image on this movie.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is actually pretty impressive for a film that wouldn't seem to need it. However the sides and rear speakers get a lot of work building atmosphere and enhancing music, while the dialogue comes across crystal clear. It's a surprisingly dynamic mix for a film that's mainly about people talking.
The extras start off with a feature-length audio commentary by Sedaris, Colbert and Dinello. The trio works together very well, and their comfort results in a commentary track that's fun, with a lot of good behind-the-scenes info and stories from the set, as well as comparisons between the show and the film.
18 deleted scenes provide quite a bit of entertainment, including some fun scenes with Parker, for whom I have some new-found respect. These can be watched separately or all together in a 20-minute block. There's also a music video for "Atomic Car" by Delano Grove, starring Iris Puffybush, the Flatpoint High school secretary. It's simply ridiculous.
The disc wraps up with the film's theatrical trailer and a handful of other ThinkFilm trailers.
The Bottom Line
The rapid-fire pacing of "Strangers with Candy," including the surreal word play, funny sight gags and great afterschool special parodies, have given way to higher production values and a bounty of cameo appearances, though the excellent comedic acting from Sedaris, Colbert and company remains firmly in place. Despite that, the film doesn't quite work, most likely due to the tripled length which wrecks the pacing. The DVD presentation is spot-in, and the extras, though slim, are a nice complement to the film. If you like the show, you'll probably enjoy the movie, but keep your expectations in check, unless you want to be disappointed.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.