By Brian Abrams
The smart aleck cast of Michael Anton’s directorial debut, Potheads: The Movie, might be able to pass themselves off as the 21st Century’s answer to the Monty Python acting troupe. The high-as-a-kite answer, anyway.
The film itself may have some shoddy camerawork, and a total lack of narrative direction for that matter, but its funny-faced actors are instinctive and ambitious enough to put the storyboard on the backburner and let the gag jokes and the snappy one-liners take over the show.
The practically plot-less comedy, about a bonged-out teenage foursome that endures one zany misadventure after another, feels more like a stoner-friendly mini-series on Nickelodeon than it does an 80-minute DVD worthy of collecting dust in a Netflix warehouse.
But on those terms it works, because, surely, 21-year old director/co-star Michael Anton didn’t have aspirations of making an Oscar contender, but rather, a weed-crazed teenage send-up of HBO’s improvised sitcom, Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Following the footsteps of Curb creator, Larry David, Anton and his producer/co-star, Chris Leone, supposedly didn’t show the working script to the cast; the actors had carte blanche to fill in dialogue wherever need be. An ad-lib here and a silly gesture there, the ensemble of unknowns kept the cinematic whoopee cushions coming – lots of ‘em, too.
In fact, Potheads is so heavy in shtick that keeping track of any pertinent events is about as laborious an endeavor as translating a New York Times crossword puzzle into Swedish. Okay, maybe not that difficult, but the antics are delivered so fast and often that when these guys hogtie a “diva Chihuahua” loudmouth girlfriend to a bean bag, run over a drug dealer’s poodle, or commit any other farfetched shenanigans, you don’t really care how or why. It’s delightful enough just to watch this whack pack put its zingers into play.
For example, there’s a half-naked, sex-crazed hick (David Schultz) who aimlessly stumbles around the neighborhood and belts out belligerencies such as “I’m so high and horny!” When one girl comes over to the potheads’ place and compliments a red-eyed Anthony (Leone), on how much he has “grown,” the scene-stealing pothead named Seth (Sean Sweeney) amicably returns with “You should see his bush.”
Also like Curb, there’re plenty of Semitic references. After the stoners have suffered a THC drought for almost the entire weekend, Seth confesses, “I haven’t had this much withdrawal since I quit bacon for Rosh Hashanah.” In another scene, the kosher kid nabs 25 pounds of the sticky-icky from a med school classroom while Anthony’s older brother (Anton) distracts the professor by mumbling about his relative’s upcoming bar mitzvah.
No explanation is given as to why this monster stash is casually laid out on the instructor’s desk. It’s just another moronic contrivance – and a pretty funny one at that – courtesy of Anton’s intentionally inept script.
The only film event that Potheads: The Movie has been submitted to, according to Leone, is this month’s World Marijuana Film Festival in Ibiza. Rather than exposing the title to distribution and industry radars, the filmmaking duo is peddling the $35,000 Cali-based indie unit by unit and exclusively in cyberspace. (They released it on 4/20, naturally.)
Maybe Anton and Leone, taking a cue from the cast’s “wing-it” talents, are trying to makeshift a hit online? It’s doubtful to think that cult status can be achieved by force these days via internet. Time will tell. But if the charms of Anton’s whack pack have proven anything, it’s that the lot of ‘em shouldn’t be discouraged to put together another shoestring project ... hopefully next time with intent to distribute.