The film opens as a prequel to the television show, with 47-year-old Jerri Blank (Amy Sedaris)--famously known as a "boozer, user and loser"--returning to her childhood home after years in prison. Having run away when she was 15 years old, she is surprised to discover that some major changes have occurred, most notably the addition of a stepmother (Deborah Rush) and a father (Dan Hedaya) that has been in a self-induced coma for 32 years. Wanting to help "daddy" snap out of his stupor, Jerri does the only thing logical in the world of "Strangers With Candy" by returning to high school to become the good student and ideal daughter she never was. Determined to enter and win the upcoming science fair, Jerri befriends smart nerds Tammi (Maria Thayer) and Megawatti (Carlo Alban), and together they compete against the cool-kid clique, who take advantage of Jerri's crush on class hunk Brason (Chris Pratt) to steal the smart kids' science-project plans. Intensifying the competition is a side rivalry that science teacher and head of Jerri's team Chuck Noblet (Stephen Colbert) has with repeat science-fair winner Roger Beekman (Matthew Broderick), who has been enlisted by Principal Onyx Blackman (Gregory Hollimon) to oversee the cool kids' science-fair entry.
Shining in the roles created to showcase their comedic talents, Amy Sedaris kills as the foul-mouthed, heavily made-up ex-con trying to fit in with peers 30 years her junior, while Stephen Colbert, maintaining the straightlaced demeanor he wears as an anchor on the fake news program "The Daily Show," is extremely winning as the Christian science instructor teaching Creationism and carrying on a secret love affair with art teacher Geoffrey (Paul Dinello).
That viewers must be willing to suspend belief is not only a vast understatement but really besides the point of "Strangers With Candy." A skewering satire, the film takes the oft-used big-screen backdrop of high school and produces a comedy for grown-ups, replacing toilet humor with biting dialogue and focusing on the (supposed) adults' interactions in the academic setting.
The worst that might be said about "Strangers With Candy" is that not all the jokes hit their target. But with the nonsense being nonstop, any misses are quickly forgotten in the film's onslaught of irony. Starring Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, Carlo Alban, Maria Thayer, Paul Dinello, Deborah Rush, Gregory Hollimon and Matthew Broderick. Directed by Paul Dinello. Written by Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello and Amy Sedaris. Produced by Mark Roberts, Lorena David and Valerie Schaer Nathanson. A Thinkfilm release. Comedy. Rated R for sexual content, language and some drug material. Running time: 97 min