By Steve Bloom
Relationships are a big part of stoner comedies and the common theme is the friction between men and women regarding pot use. As marijuana use in America continues to come out into the open, a slew of movies has examined this romantic dynamic, shaping popular discourse and entertaining stoners and non-stoners alike.
In Half Baked (1998), Dave Chappelle’s love interest, Mary Jane (played by Rachel True), doesn’t approve of his ganja smoking, which forces him to choose between his two lady loves. The unsatisfying ending has long been viewed as cop-out.
In contrast, Woody Allen’s Alvy Singer questions Annie’s “need” to get high before they have sex in Annie Hall (1978). “Grass—the illusion that it will make a white woman more like Billie Holiday,” he needles.
In How High (2001), Method Man hooks up with the dean’s daughter (Lark Voorhies). She likes to smoke weed, so that’s not the problem. Her straight-arrow boyfriend is.
Amy Smart’s characters in Outside Providence (1999) and Road Trip (2000) are pot-friendly. Her relationship with Shawn Hatosy in the former—a high school movie by the Farrelly brothers—is stoner-sweet. (He gives her dental roach clips for her birthday!) In Road Trip, Smart is the sexy co-ed who gets in between Breckin Meyer and his out-of-state girlfriend.
In Something About Mary (1998), Cameron Diaz and Ben Stiller bond over a beachside joint. Almost an identical scene plays out with Stiller and Michelle Monaghan in the Farrellys’ remake of The Heartbreak Kid (2007).
The second Harold and Kumar flick (Escape from Guantanamo Bay, 2008) finds the guys pairing off with girlfriends, instead of going on a madcap munchie adventure, as in the original. Kumar (Kal Penn) is so crazy about Vanessa (Danneel Harris) that he sabotages her wedding, à la The Graduate (1967). In the third film (A Very 3D Christmas, 2011), Harold (John Cho) is happily married to his crush, Maria (Paula Garcés).
The more mature the movie, the more likely marijuana is there to create tension between the characters. In order to appeal to Katherine Heigl’s Alison in Knocked Up (2007), Seth Rogen’s Ben Stone has to distance himself from his stoner friends. Similarly, Mila Kunis’ Lori drives a wedge between her boyfriend John (Mark Wahlberg) and his foul-mouthed, pot-smoking stuffed bear in Ted (2012).
Other films where pot plays a leading role include Van Wilder (2002), where Ryan Reynolds’ campus party animal character woos Tara Reid, and American Beauty (1999), where Kevin Spacey’s Lester rediscovers pot, to the consternation of his adulterous wife Carolyn (Annette Bening).
More recently, marijuana has a negative effect on Lyle (Amari Cheatom) and Nina (Trae Harris) in the Brooklyn indie Newlyweeds (2013). When Lyle gets busted and Nina mistakenly brings pot brownies to work, their young marriage is severely tested.
Sometimes it’s better when weed plays a neutral role in movies. One of the top-grossing stoner films of all time, We’re the Millers (2013), features Jason Sudeikis as a Denver pot dealer who gets ripped off and has to pay his connection by smuggling an RV stuffed with mota from Mexico into the U.S. Jennifer Aniston’s stripper character Rose comes along for the ride. They gradually fall for each other in typical romantic-comedy style, as weed brings them together, even if they never smoke together. By the end, the Millers have a little pot patch growing in their backyard. Nice.
Freedom Leaf Editor Steve Bloom is also co-author of Reefer Movie Madness: The Ultimate Stoner Film Guide.