Splendor Is the Grass

Mark Fields

Mark Fields

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Eight munchie-evoking movies

Pineapple Express (2008)
A pothead process server (Rogen) and his dealer (James Franco) are on the run for their lives after he witnesses a gangland slaying. Rogen and his writing partner, Evan Goldberg, scripted this uneasy blend of crime thriller and stoner comedy, which also stars Gary Cole, Rosie Perez and Danny McBride. The title refers to a particularly potent variety of marijuana, and the logic of this movie’s plot probably depends on how much of the stuff the viewer has smoked before watching.

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)
John Cho and Kal Penn are the title slackers in this goofball comedy about two guys with the mad munchies in an obstacle-rife search for a White Castle. Throughout an endless night across the wilds of New Jersey, they encounter a group of punks, a cheetah escaped from the zoo, some racist cops, a raccoon with attitude, and a horny, drug-addled Neil Patrick Harris (playing himself). The surprise success of the film spawned two lesser sequels.

Saving Grace (2000)
The only movie in this lineup that doesn’t draw heavily on the humor of actually being stoned, this modest British comedy stars Brenda Blethyn and Craig Ferguson. She is a resourceful widow with a green thumb whose recently departed husband left her with exhausted bank accounts, and he’s her gardener with a little pot-growing project on the side. They throw in together for an illicit enterprise with comic consequences for all.

Half Baked (1998)
Today best known as a frequent self-deprecating punchline on The Daily Show, this movie, starring stand-up comedians Jim Breuer and Dave Chappelle (with Jon Stewart in a bit role), is an occasionally funny, occasionally embarrassing exercise in Mary Jane jokes and bad acting. Throw in a parade of well-chosen cameos by Tracy Morgan, Snoop Dogg and Tommy Chong, and you have a hazy entertainment for the short-attention-span crowd.

Dazed and Confused (1993)
Written and directed by Richard Linklater (Boyhood), this ‘70s era coming-of-age comedy features a young ensemble cast, many of whom have gone on to become stars, including Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Cole Hauser, Parker Posey, and, of course, Matthew McConaughey as arrested adolescent David Wooderson. The film captures the funny and often painful rites of passage of high school, and the presence of pot is not a primary source of comedy but an accurate reflection of the pastimes of teenage life. All right, all right, all right!

Up in Smoke (1978)
The granddaddy of all stoner movies, this loosey-goosey comedy draws heavily on the performance rhythms and counterculture humor of its stars, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong. The stand-up duo plays two guys smuggling a van into the United States, unaware that the vehicle is made entirely of weed. As they travel and toke, they are pursued by an overzealous yet incompetent narcotics officer, Sgt. Stedenko (Stacy Keach). This feature spawned a set of similarly slapdash Cheech and Chong films.

Reefer Madness (1936)
Intended to be a stern warning about the perils of pot for our impressionable youth, this cautionary tale from the 1930s has evolved into a hysterical comedy, especially if one is in an altered state. Two adults use wild parties with jazz music as lures to corrupt high schoolers. The film’s original tagline encapsulates the threats in store: “Sin, degradation, vice, insanity!” It was parodied in 2005’s Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical.

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