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Smoke This

Grass director Ron Mann's archival history of weed, Mary Jane, skunk, boo, mezz -- you name it, we'll smoke it -- is damn entertaining, to a point. See, perhaps we made the mistake of actually watching it stoned, which seemed a good idea at the time; I believe the words we uttered while passing the pipe were, "Dude, an homage. (Cough, cough.)" But Mann's film, which consists largely of ancient footage of knee-jerking dimwits promoting marijuana as the devil's tobacco, grows a little long-winded toward its middle half, sometime after the requisite screening of Reefer Madness clips. Narrated by Woody Harrelson (who else?), Grass is a gas most of the time, especially early on; Mann unearths some gems, none more valuable than footage from a 1930s film titled High on the Range. It's informative, too, for those looking for a little history on the shrubject (say, how the government's crackdown on potheads led to the Great Heroin Scare of the 1940s, and so forth). But like Mann's best work, including 1988's Comic Book Confidential, Grass loses momentum; it gets repetitive seeing propaganda clip after clip of some wigged-out doper going on a criminal rampage after smoking out with his honey. We got the joke: Weed doesn't make you dangerous; it makes you sleepy. So does a lot of Grass.


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