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DVD ReviewThis conceptual prequel to the short-lived Comedy Central series isn't even all that much of a prequel, if you think about it. Sure, we see 47-year-old boozer/user/loser Jerri Blank (Amy Sedaris) actually getting out of jail, moving back home and of course starting high school again, but after that this could easily be another random episode. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but there isn't a whole lot of backstory revealed. It's more like cursory introductions of characters so those new to the Strangers With Candy parade can hopefully come aboard without feeling left out.
The gag of a used-and-abused forty-something going back to high school is the comedic foundation here, but the supporting players—including Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello (who also directed) reprising their roles as teachers secretly in love—allow for the weight of the funny to be taken off of Sedaris from time to time. Greg Hollimon's pompous authoritarian principal doesn't get nearly enough screen time, but Deborah Rush—as Jerri's bitch of a stepmom—really gets to unleash some nasty claws. Fans of the series will appreciate seeing cute-as-a-button Maria Thayer return as tormented redheaded pal Tammi Littlenut, but gone is ethnic friend Orlando, here replaced by Carlo Alban as the equally nice, but just as dumped upon Megawatti Sacarnaputri.
No big surprise, but plot is rather minimal, and the theme of a big science fair competition between the smart kids and the "other" team with Jerri on it almost seems like an afterthought. The point is to just let these comically snipey, self-centered characters interact, and unlike the series' attempt to take an Afterschool Special spin on things, this time it's just seems like an opportunity for a string of often absurd politically-incorrect humor. There isn't really an attempt to put this in a universe of anything close to reality (the running of the bulls in gym class pretty much negates that).
Aside from some glaring variations from the series (the school is different, and it's now across the street from the Blank house), there is a weird glut of celebrity bit parts—including Ian Holm, Matthew Broderick, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Sarah Jessica Parker—that doesn't quite jive as well as it could have.
Sedaris, Colbert, and Dinello are the creative brains behind this, and like monkeys in the zoo, they're the ones that most people are probably coming to see. As an extension of the series, it is smart enough to stay just under 90 minutes so the gag doesn't wear too thin too quick.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Strangers With Candy is unlikely to win any transfer of the year awards. It's not all that ugly, and for a low-budget comedy it's suitable. Colors look a little dark overall, and the clarity of edge details tends to be on the soft side. A fair amount of light grain appears throughout as well.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Take your pick between Dolby Digital 5.1 surround or 2.0 stereo; unfortunately there isn't a terribly noticeable difference between the two. Voice quality on both is clear, yet there is not a significantly wider soundstage under the 5.1 option. Music, however, does sound fuller with the surround mix, offering up a modest amount of directional pans. Rears do not get any major usage here, with the bulk of the material firmly anchored in the front.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Farce Of The Penguins, Awesome, I .... Shot That!, The Aristocrats
18 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello
A set of 18 deleted scenes (19m:31s) are good for a few quick laughs, and anytime we can get a little more of a raving Stephen Colbert, it's a good thing. Plus, look for an uncomfortably funny sniper attack drill scene. I was a little confused by the Atomic Car Music Video (03m:36s), performed by Delano Grove and featuring a series of overly repeated quirky edits of Onyx Blackman's elderly secretary Iris Puffybush. The song itself, co written by Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert, isn't bad, but the video left me scratching my head wondering what joke I was missing out on.
A few trailers (including one for the feature) conclude things.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsAs a fan of the series, this was up my comedic alley, but if the whole "boozer/user/loser" persona of Amy Sedaris' Jerri Blank is new to you, then this one may feel like an overlong skit. Most of the show regulars are here, and though there are a few too many odd cameo roles, the underlying awkward funny still works more often than not. You know, it's tough to have Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, and Paul Dinello and have something not be funny eventually.
Even with a less-than-impressive image transfer, still an easy recommendation for the Blank-head nation.
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