Danika is something of a puzzle film. Nearly every sequence contains some hint at the outcome. Some whisper towards the future. At times the approach is engaging, others just irritating. Scripter Joshua Leibner hopes to generate confusion and at the same time lend an almost reverential power to the onscreen happenings. It's like asking, "where is the line between psychosis and divination?" Thankfully the film moves towards a more satisfying conclusion than freshman year philosophy banter. Well, somewhat more satisfying: Every telegraphed shock and twist in Danika has been done before. It doesn't feel old, necessarily, just too familiar. Too comfortable.
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Amy Sedaris' Comedy Central series Strangers with Candy was an absurdist deconstruction of after school special conventions, following the wacky travails of 46-year-old ex-junkie, ex-con, ex-prostitute Jerri Blank (Sedaris) as she reentered high school as a freshman student. A potent cocktail of vulgarity, farcicality, and switchblade-sharp wordplay, the show was a mild cult hit for the then-fledging cable channel (as well as its first original live-action program), running for three brief seasons and eventually launching the career of Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report). Unceremoniously cancelled in 2000 just as it was hitting its ludicrous stride, Strangers with Candy seemed destined to become another footnote in television history, consigned to the same overlooked fate as Chris Elliot's Get a Life and Fox's recently canned Arrested Development. Until, that is, Sedaris and co-creators Colbert and Paul Dinello somehow convinced David Letterman's Worldwide Pants Inc. to produce a feature-length version of the disregarded pseudo-sitcom, which now arrives in theaters like a giant middle finger to every inspirational Hollywood melodrama that tries to argue that people can transform themselves for the better, hard work is rewarded, and heroin is bad.
Unfortunately, however, the cinematic Strangers with Candy - directed by Dinello, who also reprises his role as idiotic, effeminate art teacher Geoffrey Jellineck - only maintains its antagonistic inappropriateness long enough to fill out its first 45 minutes; after that, the tank runs pretty dry and the proceedings become akin to a mediocre TV episode in which plot, rather than scatological silliness, is the main focus. Its story is a prequel of sorts to the Comedy Central series. The film kicks off with a credit montage of Jerri's hilarious exploits in prison (murdering a fellow inmate, enjoying a shower with a naked female) before following her home, where she discovers her dad (Dan Hedaya) is in a coma, mom is dead and replaced by hateful stepmonster Sara (Deborah Rush), and she now has a loathsome jock half-brother named Derrick (Joseph Cross). When the family physician (played by Ian Holm!) suggests that Jerri might cure her father by trying to undo the past thirty-two years-worth of depraved behavior, she decides to enroll at Flatpoint High, where she finds herself both tussling with barely-in-the-closet science teacher Chuck Noblet (Colbert) and blissfully moronic principal Blackman (Gregory Holliman), and hanging out with friends Megawatti Sukharnabhoutri (Carlo Alban) and Iris Puffybush (Dolores Duffy).
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Poor White Trash concerns Michael Bronco (Tony Denman), a small-town boy who wants nothing more than to be a psychologist. He spends his evenings talking about how his divorced mother's (Sean Young) anger towards her ex is a shield for her fear of abandonment, and spends his days raisin' hell with Ron Lake (William Devane). One day, the hell raisin' goes a little too far and the two find themselves in court, where they are convicted but get a suspended sentence due to the handiwork of the sleazy Lennie Lake (Jacob Tierney), a gold-toothed hick of a lawyer with a beer-can garden (you really have to witness this bizarre sight to believe it). Thinking that all is fine, the group goes off to celebrate, only to find out that Michael can't get into college now that he's been convicted of a crime.
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