"Like buying skank weed: You feel cheated but it's still a good time"
SCREENED AT THE 2003 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FILM FESTIVAL: Rolling Kansas mistakenly operates under the assumption that any movie involving marijuana will be funny simply because stoners will laugh at anything.But even a doobie the size of Gregory Hinesí super-joint in History of the World Part I wouldnít disguise the familiar plot and disregard for pacing in this mildly diverting, sporadically funny road trip movie.
Co-written and directed by Thomas Haden Church (known for playing Lowell on Wings and for, well, thatís it really), the first time director and his first time screenwriter (David Denny) cram in every road comedy clichť they can think of, but still need a handful of jarring subplots to get Rolling Kansas to the end of its brief running time.
The story involves a trio of Texas brothers (recently divorced T-shirt store owner James Roday, wheel-chair bound Sam Huntington and reefer dealer Jay Paulson) and their odyssey to find a magical field of marijuana in Kansas.
The haven of hemp is actually a secret stash of experimental government ganja, and the brothers hope to cash in by harvesting and selling the weed courtesy of map left to them by their hippie parents.
Along for the ride are two of the brotherís friends (narcoleptic fat guy Ryan McDow and perpetually upbeat stoner Charlie Finn, who played the grinning burger employee in Super Troopers), with glory hog Church also popping up in two roles, one of which finds him as a fed opposite a humorously improvising Kevin Pollack.
Rolling Kansas features an amusing premise and a funny cast, but for every hilarious set piece (such as the groupís detour to a hayseed strip club called The Poon Saloon) thereís a rambling stretch of filler with no real payoff or importance to the story, such as Rodayís pining for his non-descript ex-wife.
Though many of Rolling Kansasí biggest laughs are its cheapest, relying on easy comic crutches like narcolepsy, wheel chairs and rednecks, the sillier scenes are the ones that work best. When the film tries anything remotely resembling sentiment or seriousness, itís an immediate buzz kill, especially Rip Tornís extended cameo (continuing a downward career spiral begun with Freddie Got Fingered) as a philosophical horticulturalist.
If it wouldíve stuck to pure buffoonery and Church held a tighter grasp on pacing and narrative structure, Rolling Kansas mightíve just earned a place in the holy pot pantheon next to the likes of the Cheech and Cong films, Friday and Half Baked.Instead, Rolling Kansas merely disproves the stoner theory that every pot movie is a comedic masterpiece, though it does prove that any flick with a location called The Poon Saloon canít be all bad.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2003 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.