"Oliver, Stoned." has some good elements. Some of the supporting cast
are quirky, amusing and much better developed than the lead, including
the father, the weed dealer, the bum, the ex-boyfriend and the kid on
the bicycle who periodically breaks the fourth wall. Some of the
dialogue is quite clever. The science film parody about marijuana is
amusing. Some scenes have unexpected twists, such as the heavy who is
distracted by concerns over disturbing his baby's nap and the elderly
lady who drives a classic muscle car and makes amorous advances. The
movie also capitalizes on unexpected relationships that actually make
Some devices misfire, such as the clown and episodes of emisis, but at
least they tried.
The film invites comparisons with "Dude, Where's My Car?" but seems
wanting. DWMC had the advantages of a $13MM budget that was clearly
exponentially larger, a writer with extensive credits for "South Park,"
and a cast of up and coming actors, including Ashton Krutcher, Seann
William Scott and Jennifer Garner. There are some areas where the OS
filmmakers couldn't hope to compete with DWMC, but there are other
areas where they could have put in a little more effort without
exhausting their resources.
In DWMC, things not only go bad, but problems escalate. In OS, problems
arise and often fizzle out or prove to be less severe than expected. At
one point, Oliver needs to borrow an item that is in a room where
people are engaged in an activity they don't want him to witness. But
the door is unlocked, so he sneaks in and takes it. There is an
unexpected aspect to what he wasn't supposed to witness and he is seen
leaving, but he borrows what he wanted with no significant adverse
consequences. The scene could have presented many complications and
repercussions. There were opportunities for burlesque, slapstick,
mistaken identity and other comic devices that could have made the
scene much more interesting, like the pizza on the ceiling in DWMC, but
they weren't developed. At one point, Oliver "borrows" a vehicle.
Having seen "Risky Business," "Con Air," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and
dozens of other films, we expect the vehicle to be totally trashed,
contain something vitally important to some nasty characters or result
in other problems and complications. Instead, the owner thanks him.
With the failure to compound problems, the dark night of the soul, in
Snyder's terms, where all seems lost, seems more like early twilight.
The girl has stormed off for reasons related to where he is, not who he
is. The stakes haven't increased by much. We're not all in. It doesn't
feel life-or-death, now-or-never.
Too much occurs off-screen. A car is stolen off-screen, which adds an
element of mystery as to the identity of the thief, but robs the scene
of opportunities to show Oliver complicating matters and causing or
facilitating the theft. The climatic showdown is also largely
Usually in this type of fool triumphant (another Snyder term) film, the
straight girl is beyond the comic hero's reach, as in "Get Smart" or
"Johnny English." She's far more capable, centered, intelligent and
successful. Here the love interest seems within reach and is too easily
Oliver's only objective, besides getting stoned, is to get back what
was stolen from him. In DWMC, Jesse and Chester had other objectives
relating to gifts for their girlfriends and helping clean their
apartment. Later there were subplots about missing money and aliens and
some sort of strange cosmic device. When Oliver buys food, he just buys
it. Chester and Jesse engage in a long exchange with the speaker at a
drive-through restaurant. When J&C get stoned, they do weird and funny
things. Oliver puts his brain in park and zones out. There is one long
undercranked sequence where he really doesn't do much (and certainly
nothing to advance the plot). In the morning, we find things got a
little more interesting, but it happened off-screen.
I think it was Michael Shurtleff who wrote that playwrights make their
characters drunk for one reason only, to imbue them with honesty. Being
drunk on screen should not be about stumbling about, slurred speech,
frequent urination or nausea. It should be about tearing away
inhibitions so the characters can say what they really feel without
filtering their sentiments through a sieve of political correctness and
social norms. Being stoned on screen should not be about zoning out or
behaving foolishly. It should be about whimsical and nonsensical
notions that suddenly make sense in some ironic manner or something.
I'm not a stoner. Perhaps I don't know what it should be about. Having
watched the movie, one has the impression the writers don't really know