Reefer Madness DVD: Review By Dodd

The musical and extras are all top-notch.
  • OVERALL
    4.5
    SUPERB
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
The musical and extras are all top-notch.

THE BAD
While I can handle things being over-the-top, others may not. This is not a normal musical. It contains graphic scenes, so sensitive viewers beware.
THE FEATURE
Sally: How tall are you?

Jimmy: Five feet, nine inches

Sally: Let's forget about the five feet and focus on the nine inches.


Crazy as it is, America seems to be going through a musical phase. Not only this, but a movie/musical adaptation phase. It seems the big trend as of lately is converting pre-existing movies into musicals. Sometimes it is creative, while other times it is an example of playwrights not wanting to come up with their own material. Examples I can think of off the top of my head are Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Producers, and Footloose.

One film production that already existed on stage is Reefer Madness. Based on the 1930's propaganda film, Madness is a musical take on the anti-marijuana film. It didn't take long for the Showtime network to show interest in the production. Recently, the cable network made a movie musical version of the stage show. I have to say, who knew weed could be so much fun?

As I mentioned, the musical is based on a classic cult flick. Those that have not seen the original could enjoy it, but those that have seen it will probably have the time of their lives. The film opens in black and white where parents gather for a meeting headed up by our narrator (Alan C*mming). It turns out that America's children are in danger because of a drug more destructive than heroine and cocaine. That drug is marijuana!

The narrator roles a projector film and shows us the principle story. Jimmy Harper (Christian Campbell) is an upstanding teenager that makes good grades, attends church, and occasionally splurges on a soda at the Five and Dime. Everything is going his way, including his relationship with fellow goodie two-shows, Mary Lane (Kristen Bell). All is well until sleazy Jack Stone (Steven Weber) approaches him at the Five and Dime. Jack is the local drug entrepreneur that does business out of his house with his abused lady friend (Ana Gasteyer).

Jimmy goes to Jack's home and falls under the evil spell of marijuana. One small puff and he is a maniacal junkie with a bad case of the munchies. Jimmy's life spirals out of control, as he can't escape his hallucinogenic prison. Will Jimmy be able to achieve a happy ending with Mary Lane, or will he be destroyed by Mary Jane?

This movie/musical rendition has been receiving mixed signals from critics. In my opinion, this is an extremely clever comedy. Reefer Madness it the perfect target of satire, and it gets the full treatment in its musical makeover. The humor is slightly over the top, which is what some viewers have problems with. However, this is what makes the movie. The original Reefer Madness really exaggerated the dangers of marijuana, and this version spoofs that exaggeration to the farthest extreme. The effects of marijuana lead to acts of blood, gore, sadomasochistic sex, decapitations, zombies, colorful cartoon hallucinations, and cannibalism. I know this may sound out of hand, but Reefer Madness is pure camp. It is like Smokey Joe's Café and The Rocky Horror Show rolled into a fat joint full of sinful glee.

Some of the performers are well known, while others are stage actors reprising their roles from the stage version. Campbell does a decent job in the lead. In fact, his younger sister Neve Campbell makes a cameo appearance as a toe-tapping counter girl. It is unfortunate that Neve does not get more screen time. She is quite the charismatic dancer. I was really impressed with Weber and Gasteyer as the dirty weed-peddlers. I never knew the former SNL alum Gasteyer had such a great set of pipes, and Weber puts in a pitch perfect performance as a theatrical baddie. Plus, funny as this may sound, Alan C*mming does a great job at playing a straight man. He not only tackles the uptight narrator, but various incognito characters throughout the film. C*mming is a natural born thespian
THE EXTRAS
These special features are not about quantity but quality. The supplements are put together very nicely.

Reefer Madness

Yes that's right. This disc also includes the original Reefer Madness. I could write another full-page review on this movie. In fact, I actually bothered to buy a separate copy of it last month. The original film is a cult classic and is worth owning by itself. The fact that this gives you two treats on one disc is a great bargain. If you have not seen the musical, take the time to watch this first. It will give you a higher appreciation for the musical's extremities.

Grass Roots

This featurette is a shining example of how all featurettes should be. It is extremely fun and informative. It takes time to talk about the musical's evolution from stage to screen. It also discusses the history of the original Reefer Madness film, and William Randolph Heart's conspiracy against the hemp industry. There are also character/actor profiles. A fantastic package!

Commentary

The commentary track is fully loaded. Stars of the movie/stage musical Christian Campbell and Amy Spanger stop by along with director Andy Fickman and writers Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney. Everyone here has worked with the musical both on stage and onscreen, so they are full of more facts than just what it was like making the movie. This is a great follow-up listen if you have the extra time.

The disc also includes a photo gallery, cast bios, and previews.
THE VIDEO
The picture is presented in widescreen. I assume it was presented like this during its cable premiere as well. This musical looks great! There are terrific set pieces and clever visual choices. This includes an animated cartoon sequence after Jimmy gets high from weed brownies. Great stuff!

THE AUDIO
The DVD contains an English Dolby 5.1 track and a 2.0 track. This DVD sounds fantastic. The clever songs give it the most credibility in the sound department. The songs are crisp and clear, and will be irresistible on a surround system.
THE PACKAGE
I usually don't have much to say about packaging. I mean, a case is just a case right? However, every once and a while a case comes along that is worth raving about. This is one of those instances. When I unwrapped the plastic, I smelled something peculiar. At first I thought I knocked over a can of cocoa powder in my kitchen. It turns out; it is a scented DVD case. It smells like chocolate!!!

Anyway, while I am still getting over the sweet smell of my DVD case, the front cover contains vivid illustrations. This includes a shot of Neve Campbell opening her blouse to reveal a black bra. Unfortunately, this shot is nowhere to be found in the movie. If you buy this for a sneak peak at Neve Campbell in lace, you have been misled my friend.
THE FINAL WORD
Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical is undoubtedly the one of the best and most fun DVD's of the year. I can't resist the musical's insistence on going overboard to poke fun at an era of racism, fascism, and paranoia.

My Recommendation: If you dig musicals with a little sin on the side, then buy this DVD. You will not regret it.

Questions? Comments? Just want to talk movies? Drop me a line at dodd@movieweb.com

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