October 3, 2006 -- Gross comedy is common these days, like teen sex comedies and the broad comedies of Will Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Robin Williams, Chris Tucker, Queen Latifah and the Wayan Brothers. All-out farcical comedy, like “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” however, is rare. The film “Strangers With Candy,” based on the TV series of the same name is one of those rare farces. It is not only funny, but takes some devastating shots at modern education, like the No Child Left Behind Act.
The film, like the TV show was created by the Second City alumni comedy trio of Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello. All three wrote the screenplay and star in the film. Dinello also directs. In this comedy, anything goes and nothing is sacred. It roars along with reckless abandon, skewering everything in its path. Sedaris plays Jerri Blank, just released from prison. She returns home to find her mother dead and her father remarried. Her father, guy (Dan Hedaya of “Clueless”), has slipped into an ennui-induced coma. Jerri thinks she can pull him out of it if she goes back to High School and gets good grades. She goes back to high school and enters a science fair with her friends, Megawatti Sacarnaputri (Carlo Alban) and Tammi Littlenut (Maria Thayer) on science teacher Chuck Noblet's (Colbert) team. Principal Blackman (Greg Hollimon) has recruited a team of ringers led by Roger Beekman (Matthew Broderick of “The Producers”) so his school can win the science fair. Doing so will save his job.
Most of the characters in the movie are self-absorbed and most are dim-witted. Their vices, prejudices, fears and desires are all greatly exaggerated for comic and satirical effect. Noblet, for instance, is supposed to be teaching science, but teaches religion instead. He is a born-again Christian who is also a homosexual with a raging desire for the school's art teacher, Geoffrey Jellineck (writer-director Paul Dinello). When Noblet splits up with Jellineck, it leads to Jellineck joining the rival science team. Jerri Blank is a lesbian who has the hots for Tammi Littlenut, as well as for the school hunk, who happens to be a football player. She's willing to sacrifice her friends for the affections of the hunk. Blank's stepmother is carrying on an affair with a meat vendor who hangs around the house constantly. There are no heroes in this bunch, just a bunch of amusing losers.
There is some top notch talent in the movie, including Ian Holm of “The Aviator,” who plays the family doctor and academy award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays a school board member. Kristen Johnston of the “Third Rock From the Sun” TV show plays Coach Divers. The film is very funny with a clever script, some funny one-liners and Amy Sedaris' rubber face. Her rubber-faced expressions reminded me of Phyllis Diller. There is something infections about Sedaris' character. She is indomitable in her own wacky way. She is a woman who has had a very hard life, but who always maintains a positive outlook and never gives up. I was also impressed with the talent of Colbert. Not only was he one of the script writers, but he also wrote songs for the film and does a pretty good acting job as a very confused teacher. This film rates a B.
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