Drugs are cool, the government is not
Taking a page from the playbook of Amazon Women on the Moon (but sadly neither the construction nor sense of humor), the film picks up the remote and flips through 75 minutes of sketches that alternately promote drug use as a patriotic stance for personal freedom and a way to be really cool. This is all built around an oldie-style movie titled "Satan's Stepchildren," that has no connection to the film's themes and very little entertainment value. Being a stickler for details, this is the part of the film that bugged me the most, as I've never watched a movie on TV that said "To be continued..." The way the TV watching worked in Amazon... built the false reality of the film, making the whole experience more enjoyable, something that can't be said for The War..., which flips between aspect ratios and styles without reason.
Because of the concept, the subject matter is scattershot, parodying educational films, public service announcements, and a variety of TV show genres. It seemed like the concept was to make fun of the ham-handed methods the government has used to combat drug use and sales, but right from the beginning, the message gets confusing. We're told repeatedly that influential people have used drugs and people who are uncool haven't. We're taught how a meth lab works, how to make LSD, how to resist a police search, how to safely buy drugs and how to beat a drug test. We're informed that we shouldn't vote. We're forced to watch an awful foreign film. But very little of this fits the film's inferred mission. I guess we shouldn't have expected pot advocates to show strong focus.
When the film does stick to the script, per se, it does hit the mark. The '50s sci-fi sitcom goof "Nimbus the Elder Knows Best" clearly illustrates the odd hypocrisy of personal preference vs. public perception, a commercial using the drug war's specious reasoning to connect former drug czar Barry McCaffrey's public appearances with various unsolved murders is a perfect parody, and the comparison between poisonous mushroom and psychedelic mushrooms makes perfect sense. But these on-target segments are few and far between, and are surrounded by bits that run on way too long, like the promising comparison between the D.A.R.E. program and the Hitler Youth or the examination of the connection between results and funding in the government's anti-drug ad spending. When you're catering to a short attention span the way this film is, you have to get in, get a laugh and get out quickly. Getting in is too frequently the only thing this film's sketches do.
In waiting for the film to finish, I wondered, who is the audience for this film? Well, they probably subscribe to High Times and hang the centerfold plant on the wall of their basement apartment. Sure, it's a generalization, but boy is this movie speaking directly to the choir, probably through a megaphone about an inch from their ears. After all, any movie that lumps heroin and other hard drugs into the traditional decriminalization mix isn't trying to reach mainstream America. This movie is mainly for the potheads out there, who can put it on repeat and drift away.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is pretty clean, without any obvious distortion. The music and dialogue is crisp and clear, without any real separation between the channels. It's not likely that we're missing anything from the original presentation.
The Bottom Line