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"Simply mix in all the ingredients and then add 5g of powdered hash or 1/2 cup of marijuana, depending on preference or availability."
DVD ReviewCount me in as a member of the marijuana decriminalization crowd, even though the last time I even saw the stuff was way back in my late 1970s college days. The only reason I thought it necessary to mention that little nugget is because a film like 2002's The War on the War on Drugs—from writer/director Cevin Soling—operates on attacking our government's anti-drug laws and overall prejudices with a series of (allegedly) comedic segments meant to point out the archaic, oppressive thumb of Uncle Sam. I was already on Soling's side for the most part, so it's not like he had to work that hard to connect me to his way of thinking.
The issue is the 75 minutes of skits—periodically buffered by pertinent stats and quotes—just isn't all that consistently funny when it tries to be, and the extremely low-budget nature of the production only makes the weaker elements look all that much more amateurish. Operating under the premise of throwing a bunch of gags against the wall in hopes that something sticks isn't necessarily an awful idea—Mel Brooks and Seth MacFarlane get the concept—but Soling is stuck rehashing (no pun intended) the same general idea over and over. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and by the end of 75 minutes it all seemed like too much.
Naturally there's a variation on the "this is your brain on drugs" public service announcement, which seems as mandatory here as a large-breasted woman does in a Russ Meyer film. Soling also compares the methods of the anti-drug Drug Abuse Resistance Education program to that of Hitler, and while some valid questions are raised when discussing the overall methodology of D.A.R.E., I still find it difficult to fully condemn it as much as the filmmaker does. But that didn't make me dislike The War On The War On Drugs, in fact, I think I would have preferred a longer take on the subject, minus the often unfunny funny stuff. Soling clearly has an opinion, but here it's hidden behind too much dumb humor that buries the legitimate talk about the issue of government spending on anti-drug campaigns.
Structure-wise, Soling throws it all out there. There's wacky Terry Gilliam-like animation (Hitler once again, this time with Nixon), claymation, puppets, and a recurring "feature" film entitled Satan's Stepchildren. This junk drawer approach guarantees a little bit of seemingly everything, and while it's not all useful, there were glimmers of more serious directions I wish he had gone in, rather than more pounding out more hokey gags. But this isn't a documentary, it's a free-form club meeting where Soling is only talking to those who share his viewpoint.
By parodying the likes of educational films, children's shows or commercials, the margin for error is pretty wide open, and in fairness some of the humor or concepts do work. A bit about how to properly handle oneself when stopped by the police or a segment on how to make pot brownies show that Soling could put together some workable material when he needed to, and there a few other standout moments, but the bad parts just simply outweighs the good. And when you're selling a message to someone like me who is already a convert, and that message is a challenge to sit through, there's a larger fundamental problem.
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C+
Image Transfer Review: The nonanamorphic 1.78:1 letterboxed transfer on this low-budget title is essentially a mass of different shorts all pieced together, and the image quality varies greatly across the board. Some segments carry decent colors, while others look smeary, though nearly the entire thing is beset by soft edges and very weak black levels.
Image Transfer Grade: C+
Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 Dolby Digital audio leaves a bit to be desired, often sounding rather flat, with occasional moments of clipping and distortion. Voice quality is always discernible, however, it's just that the presentation lacks any measurable depth or fullness.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Cevin Soling, Daniel Kornfeld
Extras Review: The backcover touts outtakes and "a government and drug film from the 1930s" yet all that's here in terms of supplemental footage are four fairly uneventful deleted scenes that run well under five minutes in total and the film's theatrical trailer. A commentary track from writer/director Cevin Soling and producer Dan Kornfeld drifts off track periodically as it devolves into a ramble where Soling spends an inordinate amount of time apparently laughing at everything he says.
The disc is cut into 11 chapters.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsThe concept of skewering our country's drug laws in a film featuring 75 minutes of theoretically wacky skits, bits and information is about as hit-or-miss as you might expect. The good parts get trampled by the bad, and at the end of the day writer/director Cevin Soling is truly preaching to the stoner choir on this one.
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