Cinematic Tour: Star Leaf

Andrew caught the little known Star Leaf in theaters this past weekend. What did he think?

"Let's smoke some weed, bud-day!"
Every now and again I’ll find myself quoting Roger Ebert as the man typically had the perfect opening and closing notes in his reviews.  I mentioned Ebert’s review of Pink Flamingos when I talked about Roar and now am going to reference his review of Computer Chess (a film I admired but can see where some wouldn’t): Star Leaf is a movie by stoners, for stoners, and about stoners.  The poster advertises a cheap rubber extraterrestrial face about a pot leaf suggesting a cross-breed between an alien abduction comic farce like Extraterrestrial and old fashioned stoner hijinks akin to Up in Smoke.  While not exactly falsely advertised as Star Leaf does kinda feature aliens and a lot of marijuana induced surrealism, when you break it down it’s largely about three friends on a surfing trip who take a detour getting high in the woods.  If this were a found footage movie, it would be perfectly at home with The Blair Witch Project as it takes place entirely in the woods and chases these kids around as they take turns following their own individual head trips. 

Cheaply rendered with fake alien puppets that look culled from Spencer’s and homemade CGI effects of colored lights and post-production day-for-night tinting, Star Leaf bears all the technical trademarks of a do-it-yourself Kickstarter vehicle.  Music sounds produced on a beginner’s Casio Keyboard with a hastily rendered sound mix that casually utilizes so many familiar stock sound effects my ears were tuned for the grossly overused Wilhelm Scream.  Acting is passable with some stunt casting involving Shelby Truax as a knowingly cast Kristen Stewart lookalike, including countless Twilight jokes thrown in just to make sure we make the connection.  There’s a loose thread about a returning veteran suffering from PTSD (who curiously resembles Ronnie from Jersey Shore) but it played out more like a parody of American Sniper than anything else.  Then there’s the archetypical aged, bearded pothead who wants to be both Tommy Chong and Willie Nelson at the same time but winds up becoming a stalemate.  Only the quirky local ranger (played by the director himself, incidentally) emerges as a somewhat capable actor although the character can be traced directly to Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever

"Leaf. Smoke it."
Reportedly the impetus behind Star Leaf (confirmed by the opening credits and conversations with its makers) is to promote an actual newly curated titular strain of marijuana.  Great, but does it merit an entire movie to be made out of it?  When attending the theatrical press tour for this film at the Main Art Theater, it’s makers and few attendees bemoaned the inability to smoke the titular Star Leaf in the auditorium while watching.  Furthermore, at the folding table adorned with posters, T-shirts and copies of the film on DVD, under-the-table true hemp rolling papers with the poster insignia were handed out to those who asked in hushed whispers.  It’s a unique rollout (no pun intended) for such an underground effort, but does it pay off?  I’m gonna say no, it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table other than some head-scratching moments interspersed with occasional yuks here and there.

Bear in mind earlier this year Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice came out and that is arguably one of the greatest “stoner comedies” (if you can come close to calling it such) ever made.  In that film, the hero’s odyssey involved lots of THC but it didn’t begin and end there and was full of endless surprises and some of the funniest gags in any film this year, comedy or not.  For those approaching Star Leaf hoping for a similarly disorienting experience and the power of suggestion onscreen to fuel the impulse to light up and get high, I’m sorry to say they’re more in store for a buzzkill.

-Andrew Kotwicki

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