Jerri Blank (Amy Sedaris) has had a less than honorable life having spent most of her adulthood in prison and trying to kick her drugs habit. As she is finally released from incarceration she decides to turn herself around when she arrives home to find out her father (Dan Hedaya) is in a coma, so her stepmother (Deborah Rush) reluctantly lets her have her old room back. Jerri then has a brainwave: she will start again and despite being in her late forties she will return to high school...
Strangers with Candy was a sitcom that lasted from 1999 to 2000, and built up a fair following, but perhaps not huge enough to justify a spin off movie. Nevertheless, that's what happened five years later, in a story that attempted to explain how its lead character ended up where she did, at an institute of learning that many would have been glad to see the back of in their teenage years. Scripted by stars Sedaris, Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello, it was more interested in hopping from gag to gag than anything else.
It's a fish out of water comedy and those writers have honed the Jerri character down to a fine point, the point being this woman is totally inappropriate for the school environment. Never mind that she probably wouldn't be allowed to resume her studies anyway, a quick visit to Principal Blackman (Greg Hollimon), who seems a little clueless himself, is enough to get her re-admitted without a second thought. The Principal has other things to worry about, granted.
Those other things are the fact that he claimed his students were far more successful at their courses than they actually are, so when members of the educational board show up to investigate, he is offered a last chance: they better do well at the science fair or else. Considering the science fair is coming up at the end of the week, they'd better pull their collective finger out. The science teacher is Mr Noblet (Colbert), a born again Christian who has recently broken up with the art teacher, Geoffey (Dinello), even though he's married. His mental anguish doesn't put him in the best position to place his class at their best advantage.
There are a few famous faces peppered around the cast, with the likes of Ian Holm playing the family doctor and Matthew Broderick as the state's hotshot science teacher, guaranteed to win for the school much to Noblet's annoyance (especially as Geoffrey has taken up the position as Broderick's assistant). They don't add much except novelty, but it's nice to see them all the same. The real star is Sedaris, as the permanently grimacing Jerri, pathologically insensitive, inadvisedly bisexual and none to bright to boot, but, like her film, possessing a ramshackle charm. It's more silly than satirical, supplying a few good chuckles without getting immersed in anything resembling seriousness, and refreshingly there's no self righteous message tacked on. Music by Marcelo Zarvos.
[Metrodome's Region 2 DVD bizarrely cuts bits out of the American release and offers them as "Deleted Scenes" to the shorter feature. They are the only extra.]