April 10, 2020
by Carla Hay
Directed by Rob Johnson
Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional Humbolt County (not the real-life Humboldt County) in California, the stoner comedy “The 420 Movie” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans) representing the middle-class who are all connected in some way to marijuana.
Culture Clash: A corrupt mayor and his two adult daughters come up with a “get rich quick scheme” to sell high-grade marijuana and electronic marijuana cigarettes to help pay off his debts.
Culture Audience: “The 420 Movie” will appeal primarily to people who want to watch a low-budget, lowbrow pothead comedy that’s also low on humorous content.
“The 420 Movie” starring Daniel Baldwin and directed by Rob Johnson—not to be confused with “The 420 Movie,” the 2009 stoner comedy written by, directed and starring James Blackburn—is as mindless and poorly made as you would expect it to be. But since it’s an obvious stoner comedy, people who are interested in seeing the movie should already what they’re getting into if they decided to end up watching. (“420” is slang for marijuana.) And since many people see stoner comedies in an “altered” state of mind, how much someone thinks this movie is funny might depend on someone’s level of sobriety when watching the film.
Just like a lot of stoner comedies, “The 420 Movie” features potheads trying to get out of a messy situation because of money and/or their drug activities. Baldwin is Edgar J. Hightower, a widowed, marijuana-loving mayor of the fictional Humbolt County, California (not to be confused with the real-life Humboldt County, California), which is a working-class suburban area that’s somewhat rural. How much does he love pot? One of his campaign promises was that he would make marijuana legal in the county if he got elected.
He kept his promise, and marijuana has become a booming business where the mayor lives. The movie shows that many people grow marijuana in their backyards and openly smoke weed in public. This is the kind of movie whose idea of a sight gag is showing an old lady smoking a joint while gardening.
But the mayor has a gambling problem, which has caused him to lose his fortune, and he’s now living in a trailer with his two daughters, who are in their early 20s. Sarcastic brunette Mary (played by Lindsey McKeon) recently left college in New York to come back to Humbolt County and work in her father’s marijuana dispensary shop. Bratty blonde Jane (played by Kelley Jakle), Mary’s young sister, opted not to go to college and instead decided to work in the shop. Their father Edgar has been trying to increase business for the shop and his Hightower Marijuana Farms, by filming a TV ad campaign, which is shown in the beginning of the movie.
To make matters worse for his financial problems, Edgar has embezzled the county’s budget money to fund his addiction to gambling and prostitutes. And he’s also racked up major debts by paying $2 million for a Mexican army to help protect his marijuana business, since he’s not about to limit himself to just selling marijuana legally when there’s more money to be made by selling it illegally. Krista Allen has a supporting role as Edgar’s assistant Ruth, who looks and acts more like a “Real Housewives” trophy wife than someone who’s supposed to work in an office.
The two Hightower sisters have an ongoing sibling rivalry. Jane insists that she’s the “genius of the family,” while Mary disagrees. They often bicker, but they’re able to put teamwork to good use to come up with a possible solution to their father’s money problems. Mary has concocted a liquid THC formula that can be made into different flavors, while Jane has invented an electronic marijuana cigarette. They figure that the combination is bound to make them a lot of money.
The dispensary shop has two young employees who are enlisted to help Mary and Jane test their new product—Boogie (played by John Bain) and Roofie Amy (played by Stacy Danger), who got her nickname for her high physical tolerance for drugs, including not even being fazed by ingesting roofies, also known as “date rape drugs.”
Boogie is leading a double life. He still lives with his parents, who apparently don’t know what he really does for a living. When he leaves home to go to work, he’s dressed in a conservative suit and tie and carries a briefcase as he says goodbye to his parents. But as soon as he’s out of their sight, he changes into hip-hop street gear. And his car has a bumper sticker on it that says “White Republican and Proud,” but he covers it with a bumper sticker that says “Obama” on it when he goes to work. This is what is supposed to be the movie’s idea of “funny.”
Meanwhile, Edgar is feeling the heat from people he owes money to all over the place. One of the people he’s in debt to is Chief Ironweed (played by Keith David), an African American with a tiny percentage of Native American heritage who, by taking Edgar’s corrupt advice, was able to get control of the local Native American casino by playing up his very dubious connection to the Native American community. Edgar has racked up $270,000 in debts to Chief Ironweed’s casino.
Someone else who’s putting pressure on Edgar to pay up is a local gang leader called Tito the Terrible (played by Verne Troyer), who’s always accompanied by two unnamed henchmen. One of the cronies is a wannabe rapper (played by Aaron “Shwayze” Smith) who repeats almost everything Tito says (much to Tito’s annoyance), and the other henchman (played by Lee Larson) is a tattoo-covered goon who is the “strong and silent” type.
Tito and his thugs go to Edgar’s office to demand a cut of not only Edgar’s next 420 crop but also a cut of the marijuana crops of everyone in Humbolt County. The total haul for Tito will be enough to cover the $5 million that Tito wants from Edgar. (Troyer died in 2018, which tells you how long ago this movie was made.)
Mary and Jane eventually find out about their father’s massive debts, and they come up with the idea to rush the marijuana e-cigarette to market. But first, they need to test how strong it is. The movie culminates at a house party where Mary, Jane, Boogie and Roofie Amy go to do the testing, by charging $25 per hit. Also at the party is Mary’s ex-boyfriend Curt (played by Cody Kasch), whom she dumped because he cheated on her with his stepsister. And novelty rapper Riff Raff (playing himself) is at the party too.
“The 420 Movie” was written by Michael Anthony Snowden, who’s best known for working with the Wayans Brothers on 2001’s “Scary Movie 2” and 2004’s “White Chicks.” Just like those other films, “The 420 Movie” isn’t really about having a clever plot, but instead it’s about having a series of gags that are strung together in the hopes that it will resemble a plot. “The 420 Movie” doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the funny jokes (even the “so dumb it’s funny” jokes) are very few and far in between.
Most of the laughs in “The 420 Movie” don’t come from the main characters, but from Aries Spears, who has a supporting role as Patrolman Watkins, an African American cop who practices “reverse racism” by harassing innocent people if they are white. The Patrolman Watkins character is so over-the-top with his foul-mouthed and outrageous actions that Spears essentially steals every scene, even though he’s only in the movie for about 20 minutes.
The Watkins character (who smokes a joint when he pulls over motorists in traffic stops) is such a buffoon that he can’t be taken seriously. The character is obviously a way to poke fun at bigots who use race as a reason to take out their personal frustrations on others. It’s too bad that “The 420 Movie” didn’t feature the Watkins character more because it would’ve resulted in a much funnier film.
Overall, most of the other actors in the movie do a passable but forgettable job in their roles. “The 420 Movie” has some outside meta references in the film that are brief and aren’t very inventive. There’s a scene when Edgar is on the phone, with Mary and Jane in the room, and he says, “I’ve got Uncle Billy, Uncle Alec and Uncle Stephen on hold.” (It’s an obvious reference to Daniel Baldwin’s famous brothers.) And in a scene with Troyer, who’s best known for his Mini Me character in two “Austin Powers” movies, Tito holds up his pinky finger in a crook like the “Austin Powers” character Dr. Evil.
The obviously low budget for “The 420 Movie” was put to good use in casting, hair and makeup, but not put to much good use in cinematography and sound mixing, which are uneven and very amateurish. There’s a scene with Mary and Jane at a swimming pool, and the cutaway editing in the scene has very bad mismatched lighting. There are some noticeable audio problems throughout the movie, and the soundtrack choices (mostly hip-hop) are extremely predictable. As it stands, “The 420 Movie” is not the worst stoner comedy ever made, but if you’re looking for a movie in this genre that’s really worthwhile, there are so many better options, such as “Dazed and Confused” or the first “Friday” movie.
Sky Republic Productions released “The 420 Movie” on digital and VOD on April 7, 2020.