Recently: “Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical”

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The musical comedy is unpredictable. When seen on stage, a lot of times they work, other times they don’t. When translated to a feature length film, things could go either way for it.

With the Showtime film “Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical”, you get a surprising mix of fun and camp all rolled into one exciting musical experience.

This musical comedy stars Kristen Bell (“Veronica Mars”, “Parks & Recreation”), Christian Campbell (“Among Ravens”, “Haven”), Neve Campbell (“Mad Men”, “An Amish Murder”), Alan Cumming (“The Good Wife”, “The Being Experience”), Anna Gasteyer (“Suburgatory”, “Rapture-Palooza”), John Kassir (“The Smurfs 2”, “Jack the Giant Slayer”), Amy Spanger (“Bored to Death”, “Royal Pains”), Robert Torti (“The Little Rascals Save the Day”, “White T”), and Steven Weber (“Murder in the First”, “Chasing Life”).

The film was directed by Andy Fickman (“Liv and Maddie”, “Parental Guidance”) and written by Kevin Murphy (“Defiance”, “Hellcats”) and Dan Studney (“Jack The Giant Slayer”, “Valentine”). It is based on the musical play “Reefer Madness” by Murphy and Studney.

The film first premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and also in competition at the Deauville Film Festival. It finally premiered on Showtime on April 16, 2005. The film would later go on to be nominated for three Emmy Awards and winning for Outstanding Music and Lyrics.

Where to begin with absolutely ridiculous and entertaining movie? It was so much fun! I’d listened to the soundtrack, quite a few times, prior to seeing this, mainly because I could and always wanted too. Now having seen the film everything about the music and the film itself is all the more awesome!

The thing about the performances is that they’re over the top. Deliberately. It’s something that’s noticeable from the beginning. I’m not sure how best to compare it, but to say it definitely goes back to the acting, or “acting” of the time this film is set, and a little past. Overdramatic was the way to go, mainly to make sure people understood this wasn’t going to be at all serious. Not in the slightest. Which, in case it was missed, was the point. This is an adaptation of a play that’s a satire of the original 1930s propaganda film. So, with this in mind, it’s easier to enjoy this film and not dismiss it as completely bad or annoying. It even adds to the amount of comedy that’s ever present.

With this being a musical, there’s an expectation for sets, choreography and singing to be done well. That was greatly exceeded!

Everything about this film is so big! The sets, while you wouldn’t know it, are pretty spectacular. They capture the feeling of the time. The same goes for the costumes. Each one suits the character just right and adheres to the time period. They’re also pretty colorful!

The choreography deserves it’s own paragraph as it was all so intricate and amazing! I’ve seen numerous musicals on film, but this one was something else altogether. In a way they weren’t necessarily big elaborate numbers, but at the same time they deserve this title. They do mainly from the sheer number and how complex they were. Filming and choreographing them must have been a big challenge, but when you seem them in their final form, they look incredible! Quite possibly my favorite comes with the song “Down at the ‘Ol Five and Dime”. There was a lot of dancing and jumping, not to mention a ton of people involved. When thinking of several others, that’s what they had in common, a lot of people. I was amazed at how many people were involved and how seamless the dance numbers looked.

As this is a musical it must be noted, the singing. While some of the vocals weren’t my favorite, they didn’t make for a bad experience for the ears, unlike “Mama Mia” or the most recent “Les Miserables”. Most were probably how the actor naturally sings, but some were probably crafted to either suit the range or character. The lyrics, which these actors sing, were the main area for any of the comedy in this film. Even, at times, it moved the whole story forward, which I don’t think I’ve seen happen in many musicals.

For a film that is meant to be a satire it certainly delivered. Yes, it was full of camp, but when you set out for that from the start, you’d better deliver just that. Not a lot of musicals, or films trying for comedy and camp seem to pull this off. I’m going to have to see this film over and over, as happens sometimes, or at the very least, continue to listen to the soundtrack. It was that good! The goal would be to enjoy it as long as possible.

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