Judge Maurice Cobbs doesn't even want to know how many government databases he's been added to just for researching this review.
A totally smokin' comedy
I suppose that I should say right off the bat that I'm probably not the target audience for this movie. Granted, I used to know someone who was the target audience for this movie; he once crawled under a counter at the movie theater where we both worked to smoke up, only to emerge half an hour later in a mist of magic smoke. "Roll it up, dog!" was his lethargic battle cry; a nice enough fellow, you understand, but alas—not the sharpest knife in the drawer. So as I struggled through Potluck—excuse me, High Times' Potluck—I wondered often what my turned-on friend would have thought of it. If I may pay you, my faithful readership, the compliment of being blunt, I thought that it stank. Although it obviously draws inspiration from far better material like Pulp Fiction, Snatch, and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Potluck doesn't even come close to hitting the mark. It's not funny, or interesting, or anything really, other than…bad. Still, it opened in a theater…somewhere…and managed to score heaps of praise from the New York International Independent Film Festival (I suspect by plying the judges with generous bribes from their collective stash).
I have to wonder why the pot advocate magazine High Times would have attached their name to this product—they must have all been high. It seems that Potluck is the first movie the company has ever coproduced. Are they trying to emulate that other magazine-turned-movie producer, National Lampoon? If so, they've succeeded beyond their wildest dreams; Potluck is at least as unwatchable as Van Wilder or Dorm Daze, but the High Times people seem to have forgotten that National Lampoon made at least a couple of good movies before they started churning out the crap. Maybe it's true, what they say that stuff does to your memory.
"It's the mad, mad, mad, mad world of pot," says the company's website. Australian first-time feature director Allison E.G. Thompson weaves a tepid but twisted tale of a suitcase containing 20 pounds of pot that travels through the hands of gangsters, drag queens, musicians, artists, and pot legalization activists as it is bought and sold, stolen and recovered—even smoked. At the center of the story is tough-guy mobster Frank (Frank Adonis, Goodfellas), who gets turned on to the wonderful world of smoking up by the…ummm…beautiful punk rockin' Jade (real-life Lunachicks punk-rocker Theo Kogan). Through the wonders of ganja, and in a haze of smoke, cheesy animation, and stomach-churning sitar music, Frank comes to understand his drag-queen son…who wrote this crap? Ed Wood? No, the guilty parties are Summer of Sam writer Victor Colicchio and first-time offender Nicholas Iacovino. Everything comes to a head at the Reefer Rally, a protest for the legalization of pot. And there is no shortage of famous faces, from Kevin Smith's favorite pseudo-actor Jason Mewes (Clerks) to bona-fide actors Jason Isaacs (The Patriot) and Sylvia Miles (Farewell My Lovely), and an obviously embarrassed Frank Gorshin (Bells Are Ringing). And how could you possibly make a pot movie without a cameo from Tommy Chong (Up In Smoke), who is ironically serving time right this very minute for manufacturing drug paraphernalia.
The result is the sort of mess you might well expect a bunch of stoners to come up with; it's contrived, with the thinnest of possible plots, badly acted, and silly. Granted, this does not really distinguish Potluck from the majority of crap foisted on the moviegoing public, but at least the Hollywood machine tries to make stuff that looks pretty. Potluck looks bad, really bad—cheap, as if the crew had pawned all their real movie-making equipment in exchange for a used digital camera and a big stash of weed. Not to mention that the film is so poorly edited that it's not hard to imagine what the editors were doing while cutting the film. All that, and it's as short as you might expect a stoner movie to be; at a mercifully brief hour and a half, it's the perfect way to get that ADD person in your life to calm down and fall asleep. Nobody, except Jason Isaacs (who blasts the rest of the cast out of the water with his portrayal of drug-dealing artist Arneau), seems to be the least bit interested in what they are doing. Frank Adonis is so stiff and emotionless he looks more cast in stone than born-again stoner. Theo Kogan is, ah, interesting in her film debut, and shows at least enthusiasm, if not yet ability.
Filmed in 2000 (because it was hoped that the tagline "2001: A Pot Odyssey" could be used—bummer), Potluck struggled to find theatrical release, although it may do well on DVD. As I am well aware from my former coworker, making a stoner laugh is pretty much the easiest thing in the world, and you've got to figure that they'll be too mellow to complain if they find out, in a moment of clarity, that the movie sucks as badly as it does. And odds are that they won't really remember it that much anyway; they may just assume that they really enjoyed it and recommend it to friends. Everyone else should think long and hard about even renting this stinker—I tried time and again to get though it and finally succeeded only after I caught the flu and got high on cold medicine. Even then, I didn't find it funny—it just added to my already-throbbing headache. So there you go.
At the risk of placing myself at odds with the no doubt esteemed judges of the New York International Independent Film Festival, I have no choice but to throw the book at Potluck. Feed them to the Sharkticons. And pass me those Cheetos.
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