Tuesday, April 12, 2011

TOP 10 STONER FLICKS: FROM CHEECH & CHONG TO DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAREER?



Pineapple Express and Eastbound & Down director David Gordon Green’s new comedy Your Highness opens in the UK this Wednesday. To celebrate, I thought it would be fun to look back, through the foggy cloud, at some of my favourite stoner comedies. Naturally, everyone’s got their own list of favourites. As well as their own definitions of the genre. For my money, films like The Big Lebowski and Dazed & Confused are too smart. Too universal. Classics like Airheads and Detroit Rock City tread the line, alluding to but never fully committing. The main characters in Clerks, Dante Hicks and Randal Graves, don't smoke. And Reefer Madness is more ridiculous-stoner-exploitation-horror than comedy.


Technicalities aside, here’s my 10 favourites.

10. The Stöned Age (1994)



Set in California in the late '70s, James Melkonian's 1994 cult classic follows mindless stoners Joe Connolly and Michael Hubbs, as they charge around in their 'Blue Torpedo' VW Type 3 looking to score. Like most stoner classics, the plot's about as important as the salad that comes with a Friday night doner kebab. It's all about the dialogue. And sensitive stoner Joe gives the film that infectious '90s charm.

9. How High (2001)



Method Man and Redman go back to school in this ridiculous stoner comedy - that includes using their friend Ivory's ashes to fertilise a new strain of brain-boosting super chronic. Just like Beavis and Butthead (or even Ren & Stimpy), Silas P. Silas (Method Man) is the smart one, and Jamal King (Redman) is his stoopid sidekick.

8. Homegrown (1998)



Before Billy Bob Thornton got all skinny and weird and married (and divorced) Angelina Jolie, he was the fat goofy guy in '90s TV series Hearts Afire. Here he plays bumbling weed harvester Jack Marsden. When weed boss Malcolm Stockman (Jon Lithgow) is killed, Marsden and buddies Harlan Dykstra (Ryan Phillipe) and Carter (Hank Azaria) decide to keep things running themselves. It's not your typical stoner flick: part comedy, part thriller, with a dark, dramatic side thrown into the blend.

7. Evil Bong (2006)



This one's strictly for the mega-blazed, b-horror, cheesy stoner fans. And if you're still reading, you're going to love Evil Bong. I mean, how can you not when it stars Tommy Chong and spawned the sequel Evil Bong 2: King Bong? Basically, a bunch of stoners order a possessed bong that leads them to some weird, Demon Knight-style strip club. Think Zombie Strippers meets Idle Hands and Tommy Chong.

6. Idle Hands (1999)



Idle Hands is a combination of stoner comedy, stupid horror and '90s teen comedy (complete with Seth Green and an 18 year old Jessica Alba). Asthmatic stoner Anton Tobias (Devon Sawa) wakes up one day to an empty house. There's no sign of his parents anywhere. Then strange things start happening, people start dying and, suddenly, Anton realises the house may not be as empty as he thought.

5. Friday (1995)



You can't do one of these lists without mentioning Ice Cube and the Friday series - before he started working for Disney. And the first film's the best one. Really, it's your typical buddy comedy. Only this time it's set in the hood. Ice Cube plays classic under-achieving-stoner-with-potential Craig. And Chris Tucker, in his comedic prime, plays his buddy Smokey.

Smokey: I know you don't smoke weed, I know this, but I'm gonna get you high today, 'cause it's Friday, you ain't got no job... and you ain't got shit to do.

4. Up In Smoke (1978)



Cheech and Chong's Up In Smoke is often considered the one that started it all. The big bang of stoner flicks, if you like. Tommy Chong stars as Anthony Stoner, an unemployed drummer and pothead, who basically runs away from home (aged about 40). On the way he's picked up by Pedro de Pacas (Cheech Marin). They smoke a joint the size of two Camberwell Carrots. And the rest, as they say, is history.

3. Half Baked (1998)



A lot of classic '90s comedies just wouldn't work as well today. For some reason, films like Empire Records, Can't Hardly Wait and Half Baked had this optimistic sort of gooey innocence and charm about them that just doesn't translate in the 2000s - thanks to actors like Shia Labeouf and Megan Fox. Half Baked's got a bit of everything. Dave Chappelle plays "master of the custodial arts" (aka janitor) Thurgood. When buddy Kenny (Harland Williams) kills a diabetic police horse, overfeeding it one night after a side-tracked munchie run, it's up to Thurgood and his gang of goofballs to raise the bail money.

2. Grandma's Boy (2006)



This one's a bit of a guilty pleasure - I think I could quote just about every line (which shows you how many times I must have seen it when you retain about one line per viewing). Long-time Adam Sandler sidekick Allen Covert (Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer) plays video game tester and designer Alex. When his flatmate Josh spends the rent money on Filipino hookers, Alex is forced to move in with his grandmother - who quickly turns his prize bong into a vase. It's stupid, ridiculous and completely over the top. You'll love it. Fellow Happy Madison cohort Peter Dante is hilarious as drug-dealing, one-liner spewing Dante (the basis for James Franco's character in Pineapple Express, really).

1. Pineapple Express (2008)



Pineapple Express is the perfect stoner comedy. It's laugh-out-loud, bat-shit crazy with millions of quotable lines and show-stealing performances (who knew James Franco could act at this point). But there's also something darker to the story. There's this underlying, violent black comedy element that makes it stand out - like that last little nugget you save 'til the end. It's the perfect combination of stoner comedy, buddy flick, tense action and dark black comedy... All I can say is Your Highness better be good!

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