By Alan Scherstuhl
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Carolina Del Busto
By Amy Nicholson
By Simon Abrams
By Kevin Dilmore
By New Times
By Amy Nicholson
"Here, go ahead and light this joint, man, let me tell you my idea . . ."
Flick, flick . . . puff, inhale, hold it, eyes bug out, holding it, exhale, coughing fit . . .
"Okay, we got a screenwriter with a pretty good feature film under his belt, that guy Victor Colicchio who wrote Spike Lee's Summer of Sam, who's got a stoner flick he wrote with his pal, some Nick Iacovino. Their movie's about a middle-aged mobster -- we'll get Frank Adonis, he's got mob-movie cred -- who discovers the pleasures of pot via his hot punk-rock girlfriend, who we'll get Theo Kogan from that punk band the Lunachicks to play; she's hot. At the same time, a suitcase of stolen weed gets bandied about Snatch-style, everybody's stealing the shit from each other repeatedly -- funny, huh? Right? Then, get this, we'll get a National Geographic director to handle it, almost like a friggin' documentary, man, there's this Australian chick named Alison E.G. Thompson who'd be perfect. And we'll get High Times magazine to produce it, just like National Lampoon did with the Vacation movies; here, take another hit, man."
Coughing . . .
"Sounds like what? A disaster? You're right, dude, I must be stoned."
Making stoners laugh is too goddamn easy; that's why films like Dude, Where's My Car? are guaranteed big audiences. So it's disappointing that High Times' Potluck, the weed bible's first foray into feature film, couldn't get a giggle out of an 18-year-old on ecstasy and nitrous oxide. Stoners being somewhat indiscriminate in their entertainment pursuits, it almost seems like you'd have to make an effort to keep actors like Jason Mewes -- Jay to Kevin Smith's Silent Bob, who stole Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back with his foul-mouthed freestyles -- from being funny. With the right script and director, Mewes could be the post-millennial Smokey -- Chris Tucker's fast-talking, scowling character in Ice Cube's classic chronic flick Friday.
High Times' Potluck relies heavily on Adonis' gravitas playing a mobster-cum-stoner who saves a pretty young punk singer (Kogan) from a rapist in a dark alley, killing the attacker. During the ensuing get-to-know-ya-big-hero scene, Kogan's character Jade blows smoke into mobster Franky's mouth over his protests -- enter shimmery '60s sitars and cheeseball animation. That '70s Show does a more effective imitation of high-ness with its hazy rooms, rotating camera and doe-eyed dialogue than Potluck's chintzy retro homage manages. Adonis can't quite get beyond the script's wooden dialogue, either, and his plasticene-looking makeup doesn't allow for more than one facial expression.
The producers somehow duped British actor Jason Isaacs (from The Patriot and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) to play bitchy artist and pot dealer Arneau, an all-too-short flash of professional acting (Arneau is killed early on, his suitcase of weed is stolen by the idiotic killers). The next most talented actor on the scale is Kogan, who isn't an actor and is basically playing herself in the film. Her Lunachicks bandmates join her several times in the film, and their performances are a respite from the film's "scenes."
Once the Snatch-style banditry begins, the movie's plot thins to practically sketch comedy -- Mewes' jive-talking dealer Guy buying suitcase of weed from mobster (Adonis) who's insulted by being called "dawg"; idiot mama's-boy brothers (co-writer Iacovino and Leif Reiddell) stealing suitcase from Guy; mobster taking weed from idiot brothers (again) and returning it to Guy. The cycle is sleep-inducing, and not because of the weed. The bag grab culminates in NYC's Battery Park at a Reefer Rally where all the mook characters bang together; at 96 minutes, Potluck isn't an especially long film, but it took us two screenings to make it to the end.
Tommy Chong makes a predictable appearance at the Reefer Rally. In the movie's unintentionally funniest moments, he appears onstage at the rally smoking and then playing the High Times' Chronicaster, a guitar/pipe that's transparent body fills with smoke when toked on; ironic since Chong's now serving time in prison for manufacturing drug paraphernalia.
For a film that's supposed to be socially "progressive," Potluck expends much of its energy making fun of homosexual stereotypes -- when Adonis' character Frank finds out his son is gay, he takes him to a hooker, smacking him around yelling, "You're not gay! You're not gay!" before telling the hooker to "take him inside and make him a man." Frank doesn't see his son again, not until the end of the film, where the father and son make peace over a joint. This implies what? You have to be high to tolerate homosexuality? Potluck's homo-humor is more Greek frat uptight than Green Party tolerant.
Right as the credits roll at the end, a clip comes on of Don Carmine (played by Dan Lauria -- the dad from The Wonder Years) fuming, "You stay away from that stuff, it'll make you think!" That may be true of the marijuana, but this film will make you wish you'd spent your money on Ding Dongs.
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