I don't mean to damn Strangers With Candy with faint praise by saying it's the funniest comedy of the year so far--after all, what competition has there been? In fact, Strangers--the story of Jerri Blank, 46-year-old former crack whore who decides to start her post-prison life over at the exact place she left off, by going back to high school--is one of the best comedies of the past few years.
Sharply written by its leads, Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert, Strangers neatly avoids the seperate traps of many recent comedies: it's more than just a random collection of gags, but on the other hand, it's not so over-plotted that it actually expects you to care how its ridiculous story works itself out. The casting is perfect down to the bit parts, and Dinello, who directed, keeps things lively, and pulls off a number of tricky sight gags.
My enthusiasm for this movie is all the more surprising since it's a spin-off of a Comedy Central series from a few years back, and though I enjoyed the two or three episodes I actually saw, it didn't make that much of an impression on me. Yet according to Strangers afficianados, the movie fails to live up to the standards of the TV show.
This may well be true. Probably I wasn't giving Strangers enough of a chance when I watched it on TV, or more accurately, I just wasn't paying attention. It's easier to get distracted when you're watching a show on television, though I usually try to pay attention. I know the entire run of the series is now on DVD, and I would probably do well to catch up.
Still, the question remains: Why is a spin-off of a TV series funnier than 99% of the comedies that play in theaters these days? Why spend money, when you can stay home and watch The Office or Entourage or Reno 911? They'll make you laugh, whereas if you drop the dough to see, say, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, you'll just sit there dumbfounded. Isn't it supposed to be the other way around?