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Film review: This ‘Candy’ is an acquired taste

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STRANGERS WITH CANDY — ** 1/2 — Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert; rated R (vulgarity, profanity, violence, drugs, brief sex, racial epithets, brief nudity).

The movie version of "Strangers With Candy" is a whole lot like the defunct Comedy Central cable-TV series that inspired it. In fact, it's basically a stretched-out — to nearly 90 minutes — episode of the show.

That alone means the film is probably destined to be a cult success at best, since the TV program was an acquired taste and could be a little much, even when limited to 30 minutes.

Still, this more crude but sporadically funny comedy does provide an ample showcase for the comic skills of Amy Sedaris, the comedian sister of author David Sedaris. She reprises her role as middle-aged junkie and ex-con Jerri Blank.

This "prequel" tells the story of how Jerri was released from prison and returned home — only to find her mother dead and her father (Dan Hedaya) in a coma. The attending physician (Ian Holm) offers little hope of recovery for her father, though the kindly doctor does urge Jerri to go back to school and make something of herself.

Getting back into school is a challenge, since the principal (Greg Holliman) is under fire and desperate to impress district officials. He's hoping for big things from the school science fair and has brought in a specialist, Roger Beekman (Matthew Broderick), to help. Needless to say, the school's science teacher, Chuck Noblet (Stephen Colbert), is miffed. So he plans his own, competing project.

Celebrity cameos in addition to Broderick and Holm include Sarah Jessica Parker, Allison Janney and Philip Seymour Hoffman, most of which are more distracting than funny.

And your enjoyment of this material depends largely on your willingness to find Sedaris' potty-mouthed, cockeyed, buck-toothed Jerri funny. Though Colbert's sexually conflicted educator is also amusing.

"Strangers With Candy" is rated R for crude sexual humor and references (as well as some flatulence humor), some strong sexual profanity, comic violence (including a drug-fueled rampage and some explosive mayhem), drug content (references and marijuana use), brief sex and other sexual contact (both gay and straight), use of racial epithets and brief nudity (partial male nudity and some nude artwork). Running time: 85 minutes.

E-mail: jeff@desnews.com