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Strangers With Candy

(Thinkfilm)

(Thinkfilm)

For its first two seasons, the cable series Strangers With Candy was never less than good, and was often quite brilliant. A wicked parody of after-school specials and ’70s movies of the week, with their fear-mongering teen cautionary tales, the series managed to be both anti-PC and intrinsically progressive, a send-up of and valentine to racial and sexual outsiders, with a former (and pretty much still) ambisexual junkie whore as its heroine. But by season three, it was running on fumes. The big-screen adaptation, sadly, is more third season than seasons one or two. The film is the prequel to the series, showing how 48-year-old Jeri Blank (Amy Sedaris), after more than 30 years of tricking and tripping, returns home to pick up exactly where she left off, including returning to high school. Finding her beloved father in a coma, she decides that winning the school science fair will be the miracle that revives him. The film is never really more than a series of loosely connected riffs and set pieces. That’d be fine except much of it is slack and airless; the laughs are many but they’re too spread out — a far cry from the series’ heyday of taut, rapid-fire lunacy. Still, it’s worth catching the film just for Sedaris’ performance. Surrounded and sparked by all the show’s familiar characters (most played by the wonderful TV cast), she’s a marvel of inspired grotesqueness. (NuWilshire; Playhouse 7; Sunset 5; Town Center 5) (Ernest Hardy)