[box cover]

Strangers With Candy

Jerri Blank isn't everyone's cup of tea (or should that be hit of reefer?). Suspicious, mercurial, horny, and casually racist, the buck-toothed 47-year-old ex-con/former prostitute certainly doesn't scream "average high school student." But that's exactly what Jerri (Amy Sedaris) wants to be after getting out of the slammer and coming home for the first time in 32 years, only to find her mother dead and her father, Guy (Dan Hedaya), in a coma. Determined to snap him out of it by picking up right where she left off and doing it right this time, Jerri heads back to the world of acne, locker rooms, and science fairs. It's on the latter that the plot of the movie (which is a prequel to the cult Comedy Central sitcom) focuses. Jerri and her friends Megawatti (Carlos Alban) and Tammi (Maria Thayer) work with bitter, closeted science teacher Chuck Noblet (Stephen Colbert) to defeat the pizzazz-ified team of cool kids led by science fair champ Roger Beekman (Matthew Broderick) and Noblet's former lover, art teacher Geoffrey Jellineck (Paul Dinello, who also directed). But Jerri is all-too-easily distracted from the task at hand — particularly by hunky Brason (Chris Pratt), who pretends to like her to steal her team's project idea. If it all sounds a lot like an after-school special, that's entirely intentional — long-time friends Colbert, Dinello, and Sedaris created the original Strangers series precisely to mock that peculiarly over-earnest genre. But no real after-school special ever had a heroine quite like Jerri. With her relentlessly gelled hair, unending stream of turtlenecks, and propensity to react to every perceived threat as if she's still in jail (like when she sticks a fork in her half-brother's hand during a family dinner, for example), Jerri is a character unlike any other. It says a lot about Sedaris's talent that Jerri is in any way appealing, but it really is hard not to sympathize, at least a little bit, with the world's oldest — and strangest — high school freshman. The movie will resonate most with fans of the TV series, but even the uninitiated will enjoy its cracked sense of humor and jabs at teenage life. Those who can't get enough of Jerri will enjoy the close to 20 minutes' worth of deleted scenes on ThinkFilm and Lionsgate's DVD. The commentary by Sedaris, Colbert, and Dinello is fun and insidery; other extras include the theatrical trailer and a music video for the song "Atomic Car," featuring supporting character Iris Puffybush (that one's for die-hard fans only). The anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is good, accompanied by Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (a 2.0 Stereo track is also available, as are Spanish subtitles). Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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