In the interest of full disclosure, I used to know someone who was on the writing
staff for the Comedy Central version of
vehicle in which she portrayed Jerri Blank, a 47 year old starting life anew as a high
school student. In truth, I watched one or two episodes but, at the time, the humor
escaped me. Well, now there's a feature film version with Sedaris reprising her
role. She also serves as one of the writers along with director Paul Dinello and
Stephen Colbert, both of whom co-star as high school teachers.

The film opens with Jerri recapping her life to date which includes a variety of
prison stays and a series of quick scenes establishing her as something less than
a model inmate. Upon her release, she arrives back home and meets her stepmother
(the always wonderful Deborah Rush) and stepbrother Derrick (Joseph Cross). It
seems that while Jerri was in the slammer, her mother died, her father (Dan Hedaya)
remarried and then slipped into a coma. He's tended to by a slightly incompetent
doctor (Ian Holm, in one of the films numerous cameo appearances). The doctor
suggests that perhaps Jerri can help in her father's recovery, so she sets about to
begin her life anew, enrolling as one of the world's oldest high school students.

Of course, Jerri runs up against cliques, develops a crush on hot guy Brason (Chris
Pratt), and is herself the object of a crush by Metawatti (Carlo Alban), an Indonesian
classmate. The scant plot that the writers (Sedaris, Colbert and Dinello) have concocted
revolves around a science fair and an interschool rivalry with Jerri duped into betraying
her friends for the chance to snog with Brason.

The film has some amusing sight gags, is packed with cameo appearances
including Sarah Jessica Parker (amusing as a grief counselor), Matthew Broderick (as
a smug science teacher), Allison Janney and Philip Seymour Hoffman (as school board
officials), Justin Theroux (as a drivers' ed instructor), David Rakoff (as a silent biographer
of Broderick's character amusingly named Boswell), and Kristen Johnston as a paralyzed
gym teacher.  

The script is witty with verbal puns and jokes that fly fast and furiously by, delivered
with zest by the cast. The main problem I had with the movie (and with the series for that
matter) is that Sedaris' characterization of Jerri veers from the ridiculous to the unpleasant.
A little of Jerri goes a long way. For a sitcom, the 22 minutes was generally enough, for
a feature, it's a little too much.

                              Rating:                  C
                              MPAA Rating:     R for sexual content, language and some drug material
                              Running time:      97 mins.
Strangers With Candy
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.