Monday, May 04, 2009

Movies: Stoner Comedy Double Feature

Advocates for the legalization of marijuana usually get more airplay than advocates for general drug decriminalization. Maybe that's because everyone and their brother has admitted to smoking the stuff, especially when they start running for president:

Today's movies are comedies about cannabis. This is a long and storied genre; from Cheech and Chong to "Half Baked," stoner films have been around for decades. Here's two examples, one recent, one not-so-recent:

Pineapple Express

Despite the fact that politicians regularly admit to using marijuana, it is still very much restricted at the federal level. That means that the dealers, distributors, and producers operate outside the rule of law. "Pineapple Express" shows that the further you go up the supply chain, the more violent things get:

Seth Rogen plays Dale Denton, a process server who witnesses a brutal murder by a powerful cannabis kingpin. The kingpin, played by Gary Cole, humorously mistakes Denton for an assassin from an opposing drug syndicate. Along with his buddy/dealer (played by James Franco at his stoner-rific best), Denton must avoid the kingpin's henchmen and find out the secret of the "Pineapple Express."

It's silly, action-packed fun with a barrelfull of pot jokes, and the supporting cast really steals the show. Gary Cole's turn as a drug lord is epic; the man chews scenery like a melon farmer. In similar top form is Danny McBride, whose character Red gets all the best one-liners:

Rating: 7/10

Saving Grace

Stoner films aren't limited to this side of the pond:

Director Nigel Cole helms this lightweight comedy about a widow who finds herself in dire financial straits after the death of her husbamd. In order to support herself, she starts using her gardening skills to grow herb...really expensive "herb." As the cultivation efforts get more and more elaborate, the whole town gets in on the act.

"Saving Grace" is sort of a greener, more feminine version of "The Full Monty." The plot isn't quite on par with other mega-successful British comedies, but award-winning actress Brenda Blethyn injects a lot of humanity into the title role of Grace. Worth a look if you ever happen to catch it on TV.

Rating: 6/10


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