Artisan // 2001 // 99 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // June 29th, 2001
This stash could set them up for life.
Movies that deal with marijuana aren't usually huge moneymakers at the box office. For every Traffic there seems to be three Half Bakeds. There was a day when the reefer topic was the "in" thing: It's what made Cheech and Chong everyone's favorite stoners. In the Artisan film Cash Crop, the makers pose the question, "What if dairy farmers grew and sold pot to get out of debt?" I don't know about you, but I can't begin to tell you how many sleepless nights I've had pondering about this question. Lucky for me, Cash Crop blooms on DVD just in time to soothe my unsettled mind. Starring Mary McCormick (Howard Stern's Private Parts) and James Van Der Beek (TV's Dawson's Creek and Varsity Blues), Cash Crop smokes up courtesy of Artisan Home Entertainment.
For the folks in Oxford, Pennsylvania, farming isn't just a way of life, it's the way of life. Nothing like getting up at the ass crack of dawn to yank some white goo from a cow's underside nipples to make you feel like you're really alive.
Unfortunately, some of the farmers have been falling on hard times. With the economic structure of farming not flying so high, some of the local farming community have decided that one way to pull themselves out of debt is to start growing some wacky tobaccy and selling it for profit. I myself find the thought of Jimmy Dean selling hash to local townsfolk disturbing.
Farmers such as Jake Yates (Jeffrey DeMunn, The X-Files: Fight The Future, The Green Mile) have pot a- plenty growing in their cellars and basements. Though they don't all feel great about it, the farmers figure that if they're to keep their land, they've got no other alternative.
Everything is going hunky dory until a representative from the Drug Enforcement Agency (McCormick) comes to town with a hint that some locals might be selling lots and lots of weed. The local sheriff (John Slattery) helps out the DEA, though has a hard time separating himself from his dutiful job and his loyalty to the townsfolk (whom he has grown up with all his life).
On top off all this, there's a subplot regarding Jake's son Andy (Wil Horneff) and his smitten feelings for a local girl. When he's not trying to win her affections, he rides around in his car with his stoner friends, one of which is Mr. Dawson's Creek himself, James Van Der Beek.
Will the farmers be ratted out? Can Andy win his woman's affections? And can't everyone just get along by smokin' a big fat doobie?
I giggled like a little school girl during Cash Crop. It wants so hard to be something much larger than it is. The acting is fair to amateurish, and the script pretty thin. Though it has its fair share of troubles, Cash Crop ends up being a somewhat enjoyable romp through a day in the life...of when dairy farmers go bad! (I'll bet you never thought you'd read those words in a movie review, did you?). The DVD case says that Cash Crop is a "spirited coming-of-age adventure," though I think that may be off by a few marks. The kids in the film aren't really given much to do except pontificate upon their fixation on pot, and the so called "adventure" must have been left on the editing room floor.
Here is the strange thing: I have no idea why, but I kind of enjoyed Cash Crop. Once the end credits started rolling, I pondered for a moment what I liked about the movie. Nothing really sprang to mind. It's all pretty forgettable. The story is very simple: we got pot and now we gotta hide it! There are no real twists or turns to make the storyline stand out. The characters are all pretty bland (save for Jeffrey DeMunn, who is always fun to watch). So what made me like this film? I think that it was its down home feeling. I grew up in the Midwest and have been to many of the breadbasket states, such as Indiana and Iowa. If nothing else, this movie gets the feeling of being in these flat, grassy states right. I especially liked a few scenes that took place in a bar with all the typical small town people (the type of town where a local bar/diner is named "Gabby's," just like one I used to visit in Wisconsin). I guess at its heart Cash Crop just makes me long for my home among the corn rows and cow bells.
Right now you may be saying to yourself, "Hey Judge Naugle, what about Cash Crop's star, James Van Der Beek?" Well, I haven't mentioned him much because he's hardly in the movie. As usual, when a star hits it big, older films they made are touted as star vehicles, even though the star is only in it for about thirteen minutes. Van Der Beek shows up in a few scenes to smoke some dope, act like a stoner, then shuffles back out again. The real stars of this film are the working men. Yes, the dairy farmer who falls on hard times, this is the real hero of Cash Crop...I'm sorry, I just can't say that with a straight face.
Cash Crop is presented in a full frame version. It's fairly obvious that this was a low budget film by seeing the image quality of the transfer. Though it's decent, the picture suffers from softness, as well as some grain and dirt. The blacks often looked soft, and had a tint of grayness to them. Edge enhancement wasn't spotted, though there was a small amount of shimmer. No great shakes by any means, and a widescreen version would have been nice.
Audio consists of a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, as well as a Dolby 2.0 track. The 5.1 mix sounds fairly well done, though is less than impressive. The music tends to be the most prominent feature (with songs by Wilco and Lyle Lovett). Rear speakers are utilized somewhat, though not very aggressively. Dialogue is mostly clear, though there were a few small spots of distortion. Also included are English and Spanish subtitles, as well as English closed captioning.
Cash Crop includes a bushel of extra features, starting off with a commentary track by writer/director Stuart Burkin and actor John Slattery. Both men talk candidly about their participation in the film, and admit that they are smoking up right as we listen to them. HA! No, just kidding. The track is actually pretty informative (the feature was shot in the director's home town, and other such information is shared), and both men seem very excited to have been a part of this film.
A widescreen (!!) trailer is included, which is poorly done for the sole fact that it makes the movie look like it's in a completely different genre than it really is. Four deleted scenes are included with optional director's commentary. The scenes are of only mediocre quality, with the title "property of Goldheart Pictures" written across the bottom of the screen. Bafflingly, these deleted scenes are ALSO available in widescreen. What, we couldn't get that for the main feature?
Finally there is a photo gallery of some behind-the-scenes shots with the director crew, and cast, as well as some filmographies on the cast and crew.
Full frame? What is THAT all about? Someone over at Artisan needs to smoke a doobie and get their heads on straight...
Cash Crop is goofy entertainment, if you are interested in either A.) marijuana, B.) dairy farmers, or C.) James Van Der Beek. If this is the case, then Cash Crop is right up your alley. If you're looking for funny dope smokin' humor, you'll be apt to look elsewhere. I didn't learn anything by the end of Cash Crop, but I did feel that I was on a much higher plane of existence.
Roll a joint and suck in Cash Crop...it's free to go on lesser charges, but it may just be because I'm so freakin' high, man...
Review content copyright © 2001 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer
* Commentary by Director/Writer Stuart Burkin and Actor John Slattery
* Filmographies of Cast and Crew
* Photo Gallery
* Deleted Scenes