1. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
The sequel to Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is reminiscent of the third Friday movie, with its Christmas theme. Estranged for six years, Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) reunite when a giant joint set Harold's tree on fire. There are actually more coke jokes in Todd Strauss-Schhulson's 3D Christmas than ganja gags. When a huge bag of coke explodes, it's a very Harold & Kumar White Christmas. The 3D effects make up for the slight storyline. It would appear the series has run its course, unless the fourth movie is titled, "Harold & Kumar Legalize Weed."
Jonathan Levine's followup to The Wackness deservedly received Golden Globe and Spirit Award nominations. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen teamed up in this cancer comedy. Adam (Gordon-Levitt) has a tumor and Kyle (Rogen) has the weed (and a lively sense of humor) that helps him deal with chemotherapy and his mortality. "I have night blindness," Kyle tells Adam's disapproving girlfriend. "Weed fixes it." Adam ultimately hits it off with his therapist (Anna Kendrick), who lifts him out his funk. Cancer's no laughing matter, but comedy can help during our darkest moments, and certainly comes to the rescue in Levine's inspirational stoner movie.
3. Your Highness
David Gordon Green's followup to Pineapple Express features two of that movie's stars, James Franco and Danny McBride, as well as Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel. Set in the Middle Ages, Your Highness pays homage to The Lord of the Rings. Thadeous (McBride) and Fabious (Franco) are brothers who go on a quest to rescue Belladonna (Deschanel), Fabious' bride-to-be, who's been kidnapped. Thadeous would rather stay home and smoke wizard weed, but is forced by his father, the King, to join his brother. Along the way they meet the petite Isabel (Portman), who packs a wallop, and a pot-growing wizard, who packs a hookah. The final act is battle heavy and short on jokes, but Your Highness is worth the ride.
4. Bad Teacher
When Elizabeth (Cameron Diaz) comes to class hungover in Jake Kasdan's grade-school stoner comedy, her lesson plan is showing movies. A student catches her puffing a pipe in her car. "It's medicinal marijuana," Elizabeth says. "I have a prescription, but I'm not gonna tell you why. That's between me and my doctor." Even better, Elizabeth coaxes fuddy-duddy Lynne (Phyllis Smith) into smoking a joint by exclaiming, "Weed is awesome." Gradually, she turns the corner and starts to to take the job seriously. Smitten with nerdy Scott newcomer (Justin Timberlake), Elizabeth blows off phys-ed jock Russell (Jason Segal) until she sees comes around to his gentle advances.
5. Our Idiot Brother
In Jesse Peretz's Our Idiot Brother, Ned (Paul Rudd) gets busted for selling weed to a cop and then loses his old lady and dog (named Willie Nelson) to another hippie. So he crashes with his three sisters, creating upheaval wherever he goes. Ned speaks without a filter and is painfully direct. Though he never smokes in the movie, Ned exudes the stoner aesthetic: he's a lovable slacker. The sisters, played by Elizabeth Banks, Emily Mortimer and Deschanel, are all terrific. Guileless to an extreme, Ned reminds us that honestly is the best policy.
6. Mr. Nice
Despite a limited U.S. release, Bernard Rose's Howard Marks biopic was the best dramatic stoner flick of 2011. The flamboyant Marks (Rhys Ifans) smuggles marijuana and hash until he's busted and jailed. A British rock star of sorts, Marks also works for the IRA, who sells his hash for arms. His wife Judy (Chloe Sevigny) sticks with him through thick and thin. "When you break a law that's wrong, that can't be a crime," she says. Marks adds, "How can you declare a war on fucking plants?" Like Blow, Mr. Nice is a vivid portrait of the smuggler's daredevil life.
7. Square Grouper
Named for a bale of weed, Billy Corbin's Square Grouper is about marijuana smuggling in the '70s and '80s in Florida. The director responsible for the two Cocaine Cowboys documentaries focuses on three stories: the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, the Black Tuna Gang and Everglades City. Each segment is documented with archival footage and up-to-date interviews. Bob Platshorn's Black Tuna gang segment is the most compelling. He served 29 years, but comes out with a warm smile. It was a big year for Corbin: his portrait of New York club kingpin Peter Gatien, Limelight, followed the release of Square Grouper.
8. Magic Trip
Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood teamed up for this impressive doc about Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. It's largely about their cross-country bus trip from the Bay Area to the Big Apple and back in 1964. With Kesey at the helm and kookie chatterbox Neal Cassady behind the wheel, the Further bus and its colorful inhabitants shock and awe traditional Americans at turn. The directors take full advantage of archival footage of the tour shot by Kesey and others. Magic Trip doubles as a biography of Kesey, who along with his East Coast counterpart Timothy Leary, turned the '60s generation on to pot, LSD, creative thought and wild abandon.
Bradley Cooper plays Eddie Mora, a writer whose creative juices are blocked until he tries a new drug, NZT-48, which makes him super smart. Suddenly, Eddie's banking millions on Wall Street. He can have any woman he wants. When he runs, he's faster than anyone else, creating a kaleidoscopc dreamscape. But when he's out of the drug, Eddie's just another junkie craving his next fix. Neil Burger neatly crafts this tale of out-of-control ambition. Running on synthetic brain fuel, Eddie's only as smart as his supply of NZT, which appears to be limitless.
Seth Rogen he has the enviable and joyous task of voicing Paul, a pot-smoking alien who's discovered by British sci-fi buffs on an American road trip. After finding Paul, they meet Ruth (Kristen Wiig), a Christian woman looking for a way out of her dad's trailer park. During the movie's Easy Rider style campfire scene, Paul lights a joint. "So do you partake?" he asks. "I'll partake!" Ruth replies. After a few hits, she cries out, "I have have wasps in my brain!" Greg Mottola's Paul is a sweet stoner movie with a heart of Columbian Gold.
American: The Bill Hicks Story, A NORML Life, Cedar Rapids, FUBAR: Balls to the Wall, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, Hall Pass, Hempsters: Plant the Seed, Kaboom,Super 8, Take Me Home Tonight, The Hangover Part II, The Lie, The Rum Diary, The Tree of Life, Viva Riva, We Are the Hartmans