3 items from 2006
When Amy Sedaris turned her face into a gargoyle as Jerri Blank for the Comedy Central series "Strangers With Candy", something bracingly absurd hit the small screen. The menopause-meets-puberty concept put a 47-year-old ex-con back in high school; the comic results often as smart as they were outrageous. Reuniting Sedaris with series co-creators and co-stars Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello, this film prequel to the sitcom -- the first big-screen production of David Letterman's Worldwide Pants -- offers more laughs than most comedies of recent vintage. But what was subversive on the tube feels muted at feature length.
At the helm, Dinello finds the right note of cheesy bathos for a takeoff on after-school specials that dares to ask, "Can we change?" But even given the essential goofiness of the premise -- and the 10-minute cut since "Strangers" premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival -- the story line is thin, the execution uneven and some of the gags repetitive. Fans of the 1999-2000 series will flock to this low-budget limited release, but many will be disappointed, as will the avid audience of "The Colbert Report", accustomed to that show's nightly dose of satirical brilliance.
In garish makeup and professional golfer's hairdo, Jerri returns home after 32 years of hard knocks, in and out of prison, to pick up where she left off -- as a student at Flatpoint High. But the halls of Flatpoint are at least as cruel as lockup. On the home front, Jerri's stepmother (Deborah Rush) and half-brother (Joseph Cross) greet her with instant enmity, while her father (Dan Hedaya) lies -- and, when propped up for company, sits -- in a coma.
As bad teledrama would have it, a challenge presents itself as an opportunity to solve just about everyone's problems: the fast-approaching science fair. In order to prove that there is some learning going on at Flatpoint, principal Blackman (series regular Gregory Hollimon), who is corrupt and inefficient, desperately needs the school to win the fair in order to save his funding, threatened by two unamused members of the school board (Allison Janney, Philip Seymour Hoffman). Jerri, naturally, sees a trophy as a surefire way to inspire her daddy back into consciousness. Spurned by the popular kids, she teams with smitten Indonesian science geek (Carlo Alban) and a studious redhead (Maria Thayer) who provokes some prison-perfected extracurricular notions on Jerri's part.
Bible-thumping science teacher Chuck Noblet (Colbert) is no help to Jerri on her quest; offering a kinder, gentler but no more effective touch is the art teacher of Noblet's in-denial affections (Dinello). Deadpan turns from Janney, Hoffman and Ian Holm heighten the absurdity by way of contrast with Sedaris' intentionally over-the-top Jerri, while Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker deliver a couple of delicious characterizations -- he as a science-fair impresario who drags around his very own Boswell, she as a grief counselor whose chief tools of the trade are a timer and a tip jar.
As a sendup of teen-centered melodrama, "Strangers With Candy" is often on target, with savvy production design, costumes and music enhancing the effect. But though this film simmers with pitch-perfect observations, particularly about self-absorbed adults, it struggles to sustain the hilarity.
STRANGERS WITH CANDY
ThinkFilm in association with Worldwide Pants presents
a Roberts/David production in association with Comedy Central Films
Director: Paul Dinello
Producers: Mark Roberts, Lorena David, Valerie Schaer Nathanson
Director of photography: Oliver Bokelberg
Production designer: Teresa Mastropierro
Music: Marcelo Zarvos
Co-producer: Stephen Colbert
Costume designer: Victoria Farrell
Editor: Michael R. Miller
Jerri Blank: Amy Sedaris
Chuck Noblet: Stephen Colbert
Geoffrey Jellineck: Paul Dinello
Sara Blank: Deborah Rush
Megawatti Sacarnaputri: Carlo Alban
Tammi Littlenut: Maria Thayer
Principal Onyx Blackman: Gregory Hollimon
Guy Blank: Dan Hedaya
Derrick Blank: Joseph Cross
Roger Beekman: Matthew Broderick
Dr. Putney: Ian Holm
Peggy Callas: Sarah Jessica Parker
Alice: Allison Janney
Henry: Philip Seymour Hoffman
MPAA rating R
Running time -- 86 minutes »
Christina Applegate, Harrison Ford, Allison Janney, Virginia Madsen and Aidan Quinn will serve as honorary festival chairs for the 2006 Los Angeles Film Festival. Film Independent executive director Dawn Hudson lauded the quintet as embodying "the spirit of what great artists do -- champion both what is daring and diverse within filmmaking." Janney will host the opening-night festivities June 22, while Ford will host the filmmaker reception June 26. Madsen and Quinn will announce narrative and documentary winners at the Spirit of Independence event June 28, and Applegate will host the closing-night festivities July 2. »
DreamWorks' animated film, "Over the Hedge", is a backyard ecological comedy outfitted with some fine, silly slapstick and clever animal characters. This one is aimed more at a younger audience than, say, "Shrek" but has plenty of entertainment value for older family members to ensure substantial boxoffice returns in both domestic and foreign markets.
One gets the sense though that the DreamWorks/PDI 3-D animation team isn't pushing the edges of their computers the way the Pixar gang does. DreamWorks is playing it safe here with a PC comedy that delivers an ecological message while pitching family values to the point that one wants to shout, "Enough already!" The CG animation is routine, but the writers (working from the popular comic strip) and character animators under the supervision of directors Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick do a crackerjack job of filling the screen with lively, ingratiating creatures. The humans are crudely drawn, but the two prominently featured have distinctly evil personalities that make up for their rudimentary design.
Because the family in question here consists of porcupines, possums, a squirrel, skunk and chipmunk, all led by a tortoise, DreamWorks has amusingly messed up the animal kingdom on a par with Walt Disney's old Mickey Mouse shorts. Our family awakens from a winter hibernation to discover their forest is gone. In its place is a housing development that has destroyed their food source. A huge hedge separates them from the enemy.
While pondering their dilemma, a "savior" emerges in the form of RJ (voiced by Bruce Willis), a rascally raccoon. He labors under an urgent deadline, imposed by a large and angry grizzly (Nick Nolte), to restock the food larder the bear caught RJ stealing. The raccoon offers the family an apparent solution: Humans throw all sorts of food away in shiny outdoor metal cans. By combining the family's foraging skills with RJ's strategic talents, they can fill next winter's larder in no time.
The family's leader, a turtle named Verne (Garry Shandling), is dubious. He is as wary of humans as he is of the junk they eat. But tree bark can't compete with donuts and pizzas. So the family makes it over the hedge -- well, actually they tunnel through it -- where they pilfer food at will, led by Hammy, a squirrel (Steve Carell) who is overcaffeinated even before eating junk food. So much so that a shrill homeowners association lady (Allison Janney) calls pest control in the hulking form of Dwayne the Verminator (Thomas Haden Church).
This story sets in motion more than enough comic action sequences to fill the movie's 84 minutes. The final caper mimics and rivals the "Mission: Impossible" films' derring-do to hilarious results.
Character animators beautifully marry their creatures to the voice actors' individual eccentricities. Especially noteworthy are Wanda Sykes' slinky skunk, Carell's hyperactive Hammy, Omid Djalili's Persian housecat, Shandling's thoughtful tortoise and Willis' conniving raccoon with a touch of wistful loneliness coming through his bandit exterior.
Production designer Kathy Altieri's witty suburban landscape and Rupert Gregson-Williams' bouncy music keep things light and playful.
OVER THE HEDGE
Directors: Tim Johnson, Karey Kirkpatrick
Based on the comic strip by: Michael Fry, T Lewis
Producers: Bonnie Arnold
Executive producer: Bill Damaschke
Production designer: Kathy Altieri
Music: Rupert Gregson-Williams
Songs: Ben Folds
Visual effects supervisor: Craig Ring
Editor: John K. Carr
RJ: Bruce Willis
Verne: Garry Shandling
Hammy: Steve Carell
Stella: Wanda Sykes
Ozzie: William Shatner
Vincent: Nick Nolte
Dwayne: Thomas Haden Church
Gladys: Allison Janney
Lou: Eugene Levy
Penny: Catherine O'Hara
Tiger: Omid Djalili
MPAA rating PG
Running time -- 84 minutes »
3 items from 2006
IMDb.com, Inc. takes no responsibility for the content or accuracy of the above news articles, Tweets, or blog posts. This content is published for the entertainment of our users only. The news articles, Tweets, and blog posts do not represent IMDb's opinions nor can we guarantee that the reporting therein is completely factual. Please visit the source responsible for the item in question to report any concerns you may have regarding content or accuracy.See our NewsDesk partners