Take a Drink: whenever someone says “Reefer Madness” (you’ll be pretty buzzed by the end of the opening number)
Take a Shot: whenever a weak-hearted audience member faints
Take a Shot: whenever someone is murdered
Take a Drink: whenever something from the original movie is referenced
Take a Drink: whenever the Narrator (Alan Cumming) appears as a different character
Take a Drink: when the number “420” appears
By: Reel 127 (Two Beers) –
Adapted from the cult classic of the same name, Reefer Madness was originally an off Broadway musical that was adapted into a television movie for Showtime. It chronicles the story of Jimmy, a teen who descends into the dark world of marijuana addiction, losing his girlfriend and being framed for murder. His story is told in the hopes that teens will learn not to smoke reefer.
The whole film is done with the feeling of an after school special, mocking the campiness of the original Reefer Madness. Believe it or not, this film is actually a hundred times better than the original. I kind of expected a run of the mill parody movie that was spiced up with musical numbers. What I got was a film with heart, humor, and more jokes made at Franklin Roosevelt’s expense than I would have expected.
The original set such a high bar,
it’s hard to believe they topped it.
This is now my favorite parody film. This movie should really be a template for all other parodies on how to do things right. Reefer Madness takes a lot of characters and plot from the original, but at the same time it is original enough to stand on its own. Unlike pretty much every parody film these days which relies entirely on making fun of the film it is parodying. While Reefer Madness gets jokes out of the laughable decisions of the original movie, they also have real humor like two teens singing about how Romeo & Juliet probably ends with them getting married and having kids. It has funny references like FDR saying a little girl told him “The sun would come out tomorrow.” I laughed a lot more at this movie than I thought I would and, as a bonus, the songs are pretty catchy.
Call me crazy, but I don’t remember Shakespeare
being in Reefer Madness before.
The film actually managed to do things that the original couldn’t, like making well-developed characters that the audience can actually care about. I actually wanted Jimmy to be spared from being executed, unlike the original where I couldn’t give two shits by the end. The plot was much more refined and everything had a purpose to it, unlike the original. Something that really stands out in this film is how well it was adapted from a stage musical. Personally I am bugged whenever a film was clearly adapted from a play because it looks like they could have just filmed a stage performance and had the same outcome. It really defeats the purpose of making a film if you don’t take full advantage of the medium. While the musical numbers may have been stylized like a stage performance, the whole film feels like it was truly adapted for the screen.
I had really hoped this would be a one beer review. But there are some things in the movie that could have been improved. Understanding that this film isn’t too dependent on whether you have seen the original Reefer Madness or not, it certainly helps because there are plenty of references and jokes poked at the original. I also found some of the musical numbers to go on too long. Towards the middle, the number that goes with Jimmy smoking pot for the first time feels like it could have been cut shorter. A few cuts here and there with these types of scenes and the soundtrack for this film would have been perfect. Another major thing that bugs me about this film is the production design. The story is meant to be set in 1936 (like the original Reefer Madness) but the mood and attire suggests that it is set in the 1950s. I am sure this was a conscious decision by the creator as opposed to a lack of research. They stay consistent with this choice, but it is quite distracting throughout the film.
It’s honestly a shame that this film isn’t remembered more. Unlike the original Reefer Madness that has solidified itself as a cult classic. I only heard about it a few years ago from a friend and I have yet to find anyone else who has seen it before. This film offers a little bit of everything from laugh out loud musical numbers, to zombies, to Alan Cumming’s best performance to date (and yes, I am counting both X-Men 2 and Spy Kids).
Who would have thought Nightcrawler accusing people
of being communist would be so entertaining?