A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 416 – Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical

Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical – April 20th, 2011

We originally bought this for a very specific purpose not too long ago. We’ve sort of fallen down on matching up movies to numbers, The 300 in particular. Oops. But last week when I realized we were fast approaching movie 420 I jokingly said “Too bad we already did Reefer Madness.” And Andy said “Well, there’s the musical. We could get that.” So we did, because I have been told by numerous people more versed in pot culture that the number means something. The origin of that meaning? I’ve heard a few different things and I honestly don’t care. I just thought it would be amusing. Until I actually counted days and um. Movie 420 is on Easter this year, and we already have a movie lined up for Easter. Good thing 4/20 came along beforehand, affording us a perfect opportunity to line things up again and make it totally look like we did it on purpose. You know, if I hadn’t ruined it by explaining it all.

It turns out we could have totally watched this on Easter. It’s got a musical number with Jesus and everything. He even mentions Easter specifically. Not really the focal point of the picture though, so I guess we made the right choice here. The focal point of the movie is satire. And music. And marijuana. Because it’s a satirical musical remake of the original Reefer Madness. Instead of actually being a scare film attempting to use fear to drive parents to warn their children away from pot it’s a bizarre parody of everything involved in the original, from the plot and characters to the time period and very concept. And how do you know it’s as much of a parody as it is? Well, for one, it’s got the fantastic Alan Cumming to lead us through it all and he has his tongue firmly in cheek.

The movie begins with the set-up that Cumming’s character has come to a small town to show his film about the horrors of marijuana to the parents and teachers there. Ah, meta, how I love you. So Cumming hams it up, telling us how horrible and terrible and addictive and life destroying it all is, while the parents clutch at their pearls and grumble and look uncomfortable and uneasy and then horrified. Throughout the movie we cut back to them to see their overwrought reactions. It is as over the top as one could want.

The actual film itself, shown to the parents, is a souped-up version of the original. One can see the basic characters involved, from Mae, who runs the pot house, to Jack, who brings in the kids. There’s Jimmy and Mary, our good kids who’re destined to go down the wrong path (that would be the path through the cannabis garden at Mae’s) and a few other potheads and so on and so forth. There’s still the plot about Mary and Jimmy studying Shakespeare and Jimmy getting seduced into trying marijuana and subsequently becoming such a raging pothead he loses track of all else, hits a man with Mary’s car, then becomes convinced that he’s shot her when it was actually Jack who fired the gun. Yes, that’s all in there. But there’s some more stuff going on to flesh it all out, like a dance contest that FDR’s going to be at and one of the girls at Mae’s has a baby that cries all the time and oh yes. The musical numbers.

This is where the movie goes right off the rails into full blown parody. Not only do we get numbers about having milkshakes at the five and dime, but we get songs about marijuana, hash brownies, Shakespeare (in which we find out that Mary and Jimmy totally think Romeo and Juliet lived happily ever after) and Jesus. Whom I mentioned. The songs are all very much making fun of the characters and situation, overdramatic and exaggerated. Which is pretty much the whole movie. And for the most part? It totally works. It’s ridiculous and overblown and Jesus has Vegas showgirl angels and the hash brownies number is animated and some of the jokes are so incredibly tasteless the only way they work is because they’re pointedly aimed at how not cool and pervasive those same attitudes were at the time of the original movie. Not to mention how ridiculous the movie’s claims were in regards to marijuana. At one point a man in the audience stands up and says he thinks it’s bull and that heroin is far more addictive and dangerous than pot. And oh, Cumming’s character lets him have it, not only laying into him about his education but also implying that the man is a communist. Of course.

Now, I do have some criticism of the movie. While the majority of the cast was fantastic, I never quite felt comfortable with Ana Gasteyer’s Mae. She was over the top, yes, but she missed the mark for me. Not by much, but in a movie like this it all has to be on the same level. Maybe it was her songs, which I wasn’t terribly fond of. I’m not sure. I really like Steven Weber and he does well with many of his scenes as Jack, but in others I find it very hard to see him as a thug, even when the point is humor. I greatly enjoyed Kristen Bell and Christian Campbell as the two leads and of course there’s Alan Cumming, whose character inserts himself into the movie in various places to great effect. So the cast is sort of mixed. None of them are bad, just not quite right in places. The songs themselves are mostly fun, but some of them work better than others, much like the cast. And by the time Mae and Jack have their big confrontation I sort of felt like the movie needed to end. And yet it kept going for another big musical number. It’s not that the number was bad! It’s just that it felt like it came about five to ten minutes later than it should have, and then the movie didn’t end with it.

So I’ve got to say that the movie was sort of uneven. Lots of great ideas and fun songs and fantastic cast members, but the pacing’s a little wonky and it throws off the musical number placement, which might explain some of the character issues and it’s sort of a domino effect. Still, I had fun watching it and shaking my head at how ridiculous it is and enjoying Alan Cumming being fucking awesome. Like he always is. I’d have watched this for him alone, but thankfully there was plenty more to enjoy.

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April 20, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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