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Case Number 15540

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Humboldt County

Magnolia Pictures // 2008 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // January 26th, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge Franck Tabouring finally knows where he'll be spending his next vacation.

The Charge

Welcome to the Lost Coast…

Opening Statement

…where the grass is greener.

Facts of the Case

Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs' feature debut focuses on Peter Hadley (Jeremy Strong), an uptight UCLA med student whose life takes a drastic turn when his own father fails him on a crucial exam. Looking for a break from all his recent stress, Peter ends up sleeping with Bogart (Fairuza Balk), a nightclub singer who invites him on a road trip to her home in Humboldt County, a coastal region also known as the "Lost Coast."

It is here in this unfamiliar place that Peter gets to reevaluate his life when meets Bogart's family of eccentric marijuana farmers, who abandoned the hectic big-city life for a peaceful existence in California's beautiful redwood forests.

The Evidence

In a nutshell, the main storyline of Humboldt County isn't exactly new or surprising. Peter is someone who lives a solitary existence and pretty much hates his life but remains quiet about it until he encounters this clan of unconventional pot smokers, whose ideologies differ greatly from his own. Although he clearly disapproves of their lifestyle at first, he slowly starts to adopt a different perspective as he gets a deeper insight into why they're doing what they do and what it is these people are feeling. Eventually, living among these strange individuals also gives Peter the unique opportunity to discover himself and find out what he really wants to do with his life.

Sure, it definitely sounds like something we've seen before, but much to Grodsky's and Jacobs' credit, they've managed to create an entertaining little flick filled with deliciously funny moments and a bunch of vivid characters. Although it may sound a little too predictable, the film's most hilarious scenes happen when everybody's sitting around the big table getting stoned. From an energetic talk about the atrocity of screwing nature by putting dogs on leashes to a discussion about humanity's plan to colonize Mars, the dialogue in this movie makes for some highly enjoyable scenes.

That said, Humboldt County is not what I would call a happy comedy stuffed with big laughs. On the contrary, the film's dramatic touch generally overpowers its humor, and what we're left with is a story in which everybody is struggling with a personal predicament. For Peter, it's obviously his confusion as to where he really belongs; for his pot-smoking friends, it's the challenge to remain in the pot business despite all the annoying DEA agents lurking in the woods. I wouldn't go as far and say these characters are memorable, but most of them carry a certain sincerity that made it a whole lot easier for me to at least partially care about them.

The script, however, is not the film's most valuable asset. What really turns Humboldt County into an intriguing, accessible film is its splendid cast, led by Jeremy Strong in the role of Peter, whose empty look and reticent behavior serve as a pretty good mirror of his internal misery. Also delivering strong performances are Chris Messina as a caring father, Brad Dourif as the hilarious but seriously messed-up patriarch, and the talented Madison Davenport as the young Charity, an energetic girl who knows more about the business of marijuana than your average pot dealer.

The disc's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is rock solid, boasting an impeccable picture quality throughout. Besides the sharp, clean image, the film also carries a strong audio transfer, which balances dialogue, soundtrack, and other sound effects quite well.

As far as the special features are concerned, the DVD includes a 6-minute segment entitled "A Little Hazy: Humboldt County Revisited," during which directors Jacobs and Grodsky pay a short visit to some of the cast members to ask them about their experience shooting the film. It's not necessarily an informative piece, but they all seem to have a lot of fun talking to each other, and in the end, it's rather enjoyable to watch. The bonus material also includes an interesting 11-minute behind-the-scenes look, during which the directors talk about the development of the script and the cast chats about the lead characters and what drew them to the project. Wrapping up the section are four deleted scenes totaling about 7 minutes.

Closing Statement

A fast-paced and enjoyable independent production, Humboldt County has all it takes to appeal to a large audience. This is not your average stoner flick, and that's exactly what makes it so special.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 89
Audio: 90
Extras: 79
Acting: 88
Story: 86
Judgment: 88

Perp Profile

Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Comedy
• Drama
• Independent

Distinguishing Marks

• Deleted Scenes
• Featurettes


• IMDb
• Official Site

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