95 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, May 8, 1998
Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal

Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Hank Azaria, Kelly Lynch, Jon Bon Jovi, Ryan Phillippe, Judge Reinhold, Jon Tenny, Jamie Lee Curtis and John Lithgow

Cannabis comedy too deadpan to garner laughs

"Homegrown" has a serious identity problem. It can't decide if it's a comedy about pot farmers who use a little too much of their own product or a demi-drama about the pitfalls of the illegal substance business in America.

Given all the hallmarks of a stoner comedy -- including drug-induced paranoia, "Hey, dude" dialogue and hippie wardrobes -- it nonetheless comes across dry like tinder.

Billy Bob Thornton, Kelly Lynch, Hank Azaria and Ryan Phillippe star as a quartet of hapless cannabis farm hands trying to float the business side of their operation after their boss (John Lithgow) gets capped. Thornton poses as the dead dealer to smoothly complete transactions for their current crop, but trust is in short supply and before long the mob and the cops are closing in on the quickly collapsing enterprise.

Thornton ("Sling Blade"), not surprisingly, is the movie's high point. As the defacto leader in Lithgow's absence, he plays the Pacific Northwest version of a hillbilly learning to put himself across as a businessman, and is really the only character with enough dimension to make him interesting. (Although Azaria is mighty convincing as a brain-fried pot head.)

But not until the last act, when Ted Danson shows up as a cornball Mafioso, does director Stephen Gyllenhall ("Losing Isaiah") make it clear that he has meant much of the movie to be tongue-in-cheek.

The humor seems to have been there, albeit subtly, in the script, written by Nicholas Kazan ("Reversal of Fortune"), but it was badly mishandled and watching "Homegrown" fall short is disappointing.

Put simply, I don't think I really laughed at all.

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