Transforming a short-form comedy sketch into a compelling narrative film is, as evidenced by countless one-note flops (think It’s Pat: The Movie), an exercise that seems doomed to failure. In original form, something driven by absurd details or characters has a formulaic story, complete with third-act conflict and emotional manipulation, awkwardly grafted on.
Yet Strangers With Candy, the film adaptation of a cult Comedy Central series, succeeds hilariously. Amy Sedaris, brandishing a frightening overbite, fat suit, and Tammy Faye makeup, plays Jerri Blank, an adult delinquent who returns after decades in the slammer to find her beloved daddy comatose. His doctor (Ian Holm) encourages her to start life exactly where she left off before drug abuse and crime. Returning to high school, Jerri is greeted with general disgust, yet manages to find her niche in a place filled with equally bizarre characters — the whiskey-swilling Principal Blackman, gay born-again Christian science teacher Chuck Noblet (the consistently brilliant Stephen Colbert, who co-wrote the film), and his gentle art teacher boyfriend Geoffrey (Paul Dinello, who co-wrote and directed).
Because the characters are allowed to outshine the silly plot (Jerri enters the Science Fair, believing winning will awaken daddy), and because much of the dialogue is genius in its twisted logic (take Colbert’s line “I need more out of this relationship than I’m willing to put in; and I think I deserve better than that, don’t you?”), Strangers With Candy is comedy at its sharpest, deserving of multiple viewings.