the review site with a difference since 1999
Reviews Interviews Articles Apps About

Artisan Home Entertainment presents

Cash Crop (1998)

"Better baked than fried, my friend."- James Petersen (James Van Der Beek)

Stars: Jeffrey DeMunn, John Slattery, Mary McCormack, Wil Horneff
Other Stars: James Van Der Beek
Director: Stuart Burkin

MPAA Rating: R for drug content and language
Run Time: 01h:39m:11s
Release Date: 2001-06-19
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- C-C-D+ C-


DVD Review

The back of the packaging says this of Cash Crop: "James Van Der Beek and his friends come to the rescue in this spirited coming-of-age adventure set in Oxford...where nothing ever seems to happen, until the farmers begin growing pot to pay their mounting debts." Wow. An impressive bit of bait-and-switch. True, the farmers do grow pot to survive, but I'd hardly agree with: A) Beeky "saving the day," B) the film as a teen maturation story, or C) anything involving the word "adventure."

Yes, in the little town of Oxford, PA, the farmers cannot compete with the major Midwest farms, so they grow pot to subsist. When a DEA agent (McCormack) comes sniffing around, the town sheriff (Slattery) must decide if his loyalties belong to the law or to his people. Plus, one of the farmer's children, Jake (DeMunn) discovers his parents' foul deeds, and is, like, really miffed, because not only are they risking his chances for art school, they are harshing his buzz.

Look! The box! James! Van! Der! Beek! Yes, the box promises oodles of James, "teen" (snerk) star of Dawson's Creek, but he's only on-screen for about five minutes, playing an annoying stoner. The real teen star is the less WB-intensive DeMunn. He does passable work, but his character is underwritten, and his dramatic motives are never quite clear enough for him to expound upon. The real stars are the adults, however, and none especially stand out, save Slattery and McCormack, both accomplished stage actors who bring a sense of intelligence and conflict (however brief) to their roles. The rest are character actors, most of whom look quite familiar but don't do much to distinguish themselves.

Director Burkin also co-wrote, and this film doesn't showcase his talents for either profession. The premise is interesting, plausible, and ripe with opportunities for conflict and drama. Unfortunately, everything is underplayed. The film unfolds lazily, with 20 minutes of bland character development before things really kick in. Even when the law is in town and the farmers are in trouble, there is never any real sense of danger, and the story is so busy (extraneous elements include a teen romance and a car accident), that the core conflict never develops. It's like watching a news report on Dateline NBC, or maybe a documentary in which nothing much even happens.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The box gives conflicting reports on the OAR of this film. On top, it says, "Formatted to fit your screen." Immediately beneath, it says, "Presented in the original 1.33:1 format in which this film was shot." Yet the trailer (in the extras area) is 1.85:1. Maybe director Burkin pulled a Kubrick on us? Anyway, there are more problems than just questionable framage. In light scenes, this is generally a watchable picture, albeit a bit soft, with washed out colors and an overall dull, flat look. In the night scenes, things get pretty messy. Film grain pops up, and digital artifacts (and a pixelated look) plague many of the later scenes.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Cash Crop offers both a 2.0 and 5.1 DD mix, but you only get one option. You see, the mixes sound exactly the same. Exactly. The 5.1 track is laughable, with zero surround use. Not even ambient noise or the score is supported. The fronts don't fare much better, with a very narrow sound and limited directionality. Even the dialogue, anchored in the center, sounds a bit muffled and weak. This sounds more like a slightly remixed mono track than anything else.

Audio Transfer Grade: D+ 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Stuart Barkin, actor John Slattery
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:44m:08s

Extra Extras:
  1. Still gallery
Extras Review: For such a small film, Cash Crop has received some nice extras, but there isn't quite as much included as the long list on the back of the box seems to indicate. The only substantial extra is a fairly interesting commentary with the director and actor John Slattery. Both are quite chatty, and they have some stories to tell about shooting, story development, and financing. Overall, a pretty average track.

Four deleted scenes ("Two Lost Feds," "Breakfast with the Farmers," "Flirting With the Law," and "Sunset with Jake and Alice") are included, with or without director commentary. Frankly, these really aren't interesting enough to merit a viewing, and the commentary isn't necessary, as they were clearly cut for a reason.

The trailer is included, along with a mini-gallery of 12 production stills. Finally, the cast and crew bios are some of the most extensive I've seen, and I found them more interesting than the rest of the features put together.

Extras Grade: C-

Final Comments

Caution! Keep your teenage daughters away from the Cash Crop packaging. The box may promise a coming-of-age teen drama, and they'll likely become violent when Mr. Dawson disappears from the screen for most of the movie. As for you adults, Cash Crop is visually and dramatically dull, and I can't see this as anything more than a rental. Unless, of course, you want to collect the entire Van Der Beek troika.

Joel Cunningham 2001-06-15