"And then people will ask why I have a picture of President Garfield on my wall, and I'll tell them it's because I like lasagna, of course!"
I've been watching all the buzz surrounding Smiley Face for some time now, following two positive reviews from both Monika (at Toronto) and Jette (at SXSW), and yet the film still couldn't find its way to theaters (with the exception of a limited run at New York's IFC Center). Part of the reason why I wanted to review the DVD was because, after all the wonderful feedback, I needed to see for myself why, in fact, Smiley Face was not worthy of a theatrical run. Aside from a great, marketable cast (including Anna Faris, Adam Brody, John Krasinski, Danny Masterson, Jane Lynch, John Cho, Danny Trejo, Brian Posehn and friggin' Carrot Top), the flick comes with a very funny script, some great edge-of-your-seat set pieces and plenty of memorable quotes (see above). So what gives? Why is this one heading straight to DVD (tomorrow), instead of enjoying some theatrical face time?
Well, the problem probably lies in the fact that it's a straight-up, unapologetic stoner comedy ... with the words 'cult following' written all over it. With its R rating (for foul language and massive amounts of drug use), Smiley Face would've been near impossible to market to a mass audience. That said, they could've cut together a "safe" trailer, and I imagine the critics would've liked this one -- so either the money wasn't there or First Look just didn't have enough faith in their product (it is a female-driven stoner comedy after all -- and those are rare). Dazed and Confused grossed only $7 million when it was first released in 1993, but the film has gone on to reach cult status among teenagers (that DVD was passed around like a joint back when I was in college). It's my belief that, while Smiley Face will probably not reach Dazed and Confused status, it will definitely find an audience on DVD and perhaps go down as the first great stoner comedy of the new millennium ... or at least give Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle a run for its money.
But you have to dig stoner comedies in order to "get" Smiley Face. If you're a big fan of those old Cheech and Chong flicks, then you'll most definitely enjoy Smiley Face for its dim-witted main character and her pot-induced misadventures. I won't go into too many details (because we've covered the plot before), but the film centers on Jane F. (Faris), an aspiring actress who's pot addiction always gets the best of her. When she inadvertently scarfs down a box of pot-laced cupcakes (prepared by her nerdy roommate for his sci-fi convention buddies), Jane tries desperately to correct her mistakes, however her heavy high and lack of common sense keep leading her in the wrong direction. By the time the first act is over, Jane has wracked up a laundry list of things to do and/or fix, and it doesn't help that her high keeps intensifying.
The DVD itself is pretty sparse, which is another indication First Look just didn't care enough about this film to really give it some love. The only extras you get are one standard Behind-the-Scenes Featurette, which is poorly cut together and doesn't go too far past the usual round of "This film was great, everything was great, it was so much fun" quotes from the cast, director, writer and producers. They could've easily thrown a bit more money at this DVD, since there's no theatrical run, and tacked on a few fun "stoner-like" extras for those kids who'll be up late at night watching this flick in their dorm room, with a large bong making its way around the circle. For sound, you get 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, and the video quality is fine.
As far as performances go, Anna Faris is pretty good. She's not great -- she's not horrible -- but she does the job, and though there's clearly some over-acting and inconsistencies, she definitely proves to be one of the better comedic actresses working today. Masterson (who plays Jane's geeked-out, ultra-serious roommate) and Krasinski (who plays a sci-fi nerd obsessed with Jane) stand out as the most fun to watch on screen, while Brody's drug dealer did get on my nerves a wee bit.
With a crisp running time of 85 minutes, Smiley Face never feels too long or too rushed -- and the film definitely gets props for taking a risk on a female-centric stoner comedy, which, as I said before, are an extremely rare find. Aside from the bogus DVD extras, if you're a huge fan of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, as well as Cheech and Chong, then Smiley Face should prove to be a welcomed edition to your stoner DVD collection.