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DVD Review: Smiley Face

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Smiley Face, from director Gregg Araki (Mysterious Skin), may be the first stoner comedy I've seen where I actually felt sorry for the pothead protagonist. The film is funny to be sure, with Anna Faris (Scary Movie) taking on the role of the cannabis connoisseur. But even the filmmakers, who in the behind-the-scenes DVD feature confess that anyone who looks too old would look like a complete loser, acknowledge that there's something a little more than hilarious antics haunting Jane.

Jane is a young woman who smokes pot, plays Second Life and collects unemployment checks as an out-of-work actress. Is it the specter of Communism from the first edition Communist Manifesto she mistakenly steals that haunts her? Or is it just the ungodly amount of marijuana she consumes when she eats her freaky roommate's pot cupcakes on her post-smoke eating binge? I'm guessing the latter.

Jane wasn't supposed to eat those cupcakes, and now that she's more stoned than she's ever been in her life, she devises a plan to replace the cupcakes. Step one: buy more pot. With a plan that starts like that, it's no surprise that she ends up on a ferris wheel in Venice Beach after riding a sausage truck and attempting to start a proletarian revolution at a meat processing factory.

While all of Jane's misadventures are humorous, especially in the hands of the effortlessly funny Faris, the film's pacing is off just enough to force us to consider Jane beyond her pot-induced paranoia. Yes, she is a loser. She spends her roommate's money to buy pot. She uses a male friend (John Krasinski of The Office) who is in love with her. Overall, she's not very considerate, and she's alone.

There's a reason stoner comedies (Cheech & Chong and Harold & Kumar) are about groups of people. Then there's at least one other person in the film who isn't judging someone like Jane. In Smiley Face, too many people are appropriately looking down their noses at the person we should be laughing with. When we do laugh, it's certainly not with Jane, making her character more sad than any comedy character should be.

Smiley Face is available on DVD Jan. 8, 2007.

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About Daniel J. Stasiewski