"Fully Baked & Paranoid"
In an unsuccessful attempt at comedy and mystery, the obscenity-filled movie HOMEGROWN revolves around the illegal harvesting and selling of marijuana and presents the dangers of being involved in such a business. It is unfortunate that this movie depicts a positive portrait of marijuana smoking without demonstrating the significant negative side-effects, and so it ultimately encourages and entices people to experiment with marijuana.
Playing more like a TV movie than a big screen feature, HOMEGROWN explores the world of marijuana through a motley clan that makes a living by growing and harvesting this drug. Malcolm (John Lithgow) is the landowner and main profiteer. He is killed by a helicopter pilot within the first ten minutes of the story. Three of his harvesters witness the murder: Jack (Billy Bob Thornton), Carter (Hank Azaria) and Harlan (Ryan Phillippe). It is unclear who killed Malcolm or why. The three men bury the body, without telling anyone, and Jack decides to take over the business by pretending he is Malcolm.
After Malcolm’s murder, paranoia sweeps over the harvesters who are now cautious and guarded, always looking over their shoulders. A woman named Lucy (Kelly Lynch) prepares some of their marijuana for sale at her home. It becomes evident that Lucy and Carter were previously involved romantically. However, Lucy is frustrated over Carter’s roving eye. She has an affair with Harlan, the newest and youngest member of the group, and Carter turns his attention to a woman he meets in the bar for retaliation. The movie portrays sex and smoking marijuana as the remedy for tension, boredom and mere survival.
What follows is a confusing series of events that include a meeting between Jack and a Mafia leader played by TV star Ted Danson who demands his promised stash. The harvesters fight off thieves who invade their property to steal the marijuana and interact with a suspicious substantial buyer, Danny, played by rock-star-turned-actor Jon Bon Jovi. Interestingly, the sheriff of the town takes a payoff to turn his back, and the townspeople are also cooperative and protective of the marijuana harvesters, partly because of the money they bring to the town.
Unsuccessful in its attempt at comedy, HOMEGROWN does have some suspenseful moments. However, one wonders what the movie hopes to accomplish. Its statement for the legalization of marijuana is not strong, rather it shows the destructive consequences of running an illegal business instead of demonstrating why this drug should be legally accessible.
Performances are fair. Billy Bob Thornton, known mostly for his leading role in SLING BLADE, is sidelined. Ted Danson is not believable in his role as the tough Mafia leader. Danny stands out as the most credible character, performed quite naturally by Jon Bon Jovi. Filmed partly in Santa Cruz County, the scenery is the movie’s finest feature.
What is most disturbing about HOMEGROWN is that, aside from the intensified paranoia (which is actually a normal symptom of running an illegal business), the negative side effects of marijuana are not depicted. Instead, the movie represents this drug as producing calmness and heightening pleasures. The significant side effects of marijuana when taken in substantial amounts are perilous. For example, research has shown that marijuana use can cause psychotic symptoms, can reduce one’s ability to perform tasks requiring concentration and coordination (such as driving a car), can affect short-term memory and comprehension, and can cause lack of motivation. Importantly, marijuana smoke contains more cancer-causing agents than tobacco smoke and can cause damage to the lungs and pulmonary system, especially since the marijuana of today is several times more potent than it was back in the 70s. This drug is not as innocuous as the movie portrays it to be.
A note to parents: this movie sends the wrong message especially to teenagers and can actually encourage them to want to experiment with marijuana. Also, smoking, possessing and selling marijuana is illegal.
(Pa, LLL, V, SS, NN, DDD, M) Pagan worldview of drug subculture; 136 obscenities & 15 profanities; man shot but not graphic; brief fornication at a distance & implied fornication; rear male nudity; extensive marijuana use; and, deception & blackmail.