Jerri Blank, the anti-heroine of Comedy Central's Strangers with Candy, was a fortysomething former junkie, sex worker and high-school dropout starting life over where she left off: as a freshman. Alas, the big-screen "origin story" will disappoint the show's admirers and befuddle everyone else. Jerri (co-creator Amy Sedaris) returns home after a lengthy stint in the big house to discover her beloved father (Dan Hedaya) in a coma. When a doctor notices that Jerri's presence makes her dad more responsive, she moves back in and re-enrolls at Flatpoint High, hoping to make her father proud.
The TV show's bright, deadpan tone caused viewers to breeze right through its hit-and-miss humor, but on film it proves to be underlit, arbitrary and at times agonizing. Sedaris' oversized mugging and awkward body language seem better suited for kabuki theater than a movie comedy. And while Stephen Colbert as a closeted science teacher affirms his status as a straight-faced comedic foil, and some of the throwaway jokes connect, finally Strangers with Candy drops into one of the pitfalls of a post-modern age: It tries to carry irony so far that it loses sight of what's supposed to be funny. Directed by Paul Dinello. Stars Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert.
Strangers With Candy (R) opens Friday at local theaters. 2 stars