Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What-To-Watch Wednesday - Reefer Madness: the Movie Musical (2005)

I don't think I've reviewed a musical before for this series, so it is probably about time that I included at least one.  And, if I am going to choose one, it would have to be the musical version of Reefer Madness.

For those that don't know, the original film version of Reefer Madness was released in 1936 and was a shameless exploitation film that purported to show the damaging effects of marijuana use.  Medically inaccurate and exaggerated to the point of camp, the film was originally funded by some church group that wanted to warn parents about the dangers of pot smoking.  However, a producer of exploitation films bought the distribution rights to the film and had it re-cut to market on the exploitation film circuit.  Since then, the film has become a cult classic as a notable "worst film ever made."

Of course, such a film is a ripe target for parody, and the musical version does indeed parody the inaccuracies and exaggerations depicted in the original film.  It opens in a small mid-western town with an emergency PTA meeting in which a guest lecturer (Alan Cumming) shows concerned parents a film he says reveals the dire evil their children are facing with marijuana use.  The film-within-a-film follows the budding romance of Jimmy Harper (Christian Campbell) and Mary Lane (Kristen Bell) as they profess their love for each other and show a striking ignorance of the plot of Romeo and Juliet.

Soon, Jimmy is enticed by a pot dealer, Jack (Steven Weber), to come back to his "reefer den."  Once there, Jimmy is tricked into smoking what he thinks is a regular cigarette (incidentally, cigarette smoking is repeatedly and comically touted as being harmless throughout the film) and begins his descent into addiction and madness.  To say Jimmy's life begins to unravel as a result of his pot smoking is an understatement as he goes on a tirade of increasingly erratic behavior that includes orgies, hallucinations, and murder.

All of this happens with rousing song and dance numbers, of course.  The music deliciously punches up the satirical elements that make the film feel like a rich SNL skit.  Look for the "Mary Jane/Mary Lane" number, which offers the obvious play on words.

And, speaking of SNL, the stand-out performance in this movie is Ana Gasteyer as Mae, one of the reefer den residents.  Her number, "The Stuff," done in the style of a classic Broadway ballad, is a study in comedic timing and singing.

Finally, Reefer Madness doesn't have a trailer available on the internet that I could find.  This is probably because the film never had a theatrical release as it was aired on Showtime.  So, instead, watch one of the kooky musical numbers.





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