Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Smiley Face

Illustration for article titled Smiley Face

The world probably doesn't need another stoner comedy—not with the likes of The Big Lebowski, Dazed And Confused, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, and Dude, Where's My Car? in constant rotation—but it gets one anyway in Gregg Araki's Smiley Face, which probably connects to the experience of being baked better than any of them. To wit: In one scene, a completely toasted Anna Faris is scarfing down a bowl of corn chips in a stranger's house when she notices a framed black-and-white picture of an ear of corn. She surmises that the person who took the picture must love the corn that went into those chips, and thus has framed this thing that he loves. That gives her the idea that she should start framing pictures of things that she loves, like lasagna, which of course Garfield loves, so maybe to be "meta," she should frame a picture of President James Garfield. This is how the stoned mind operates, making brilliant, inspired connections that are usually completely inane.

And so it goes with Smiley Face, which was based on a script by Dylan Haggerty that originally circulated under the title The Being John Malkovich Of All Pot-Smoking Stoner Movies. It's a fittingly loose, shambling little nothing of a comedy that's occasionally inspired, but at least a draft or two short of its potential. Still, it's a pleasure to watch Faris—a gifted, likeable comedian who tends to be the best element of many terrible movies—wander slack-jawed through a surreal day in Los Angeles. Already toasted by 9:15 a.m., Faris eats all her creepy roommate's forbidden cupcakes, not realizing that they're also filled with pot, which compounds her high. She then tries to set an ambitious agenda for herself: Buy more pot to replace the cupcakes, go to an acting audition, pay her dealer (Adam Brody, in dreadlocks) before he seizes her thousand-dollar mattress, and scrape up enough cash to keep the power from getting cut off.

That would be a full afternoon for anyone, let alone a woman so high that she can barely put one foot in front of the other, but Smiley Face is a journey without much of a destination, not even somewhere as modest as White Castle. With a murderer's row of guest appearances by recognizable faces—including John Krasinski as a nerd with a crush on Faris, Brian Posehn as a city bus driver, and John Cho and Danny Trejo as non-union drivers for a pork-processing plant—the film just ambles along merrily through one goofy diversion after another. At some point, the original manuscript of The Communist Manifesto turns up, and that's really just par for the course.