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April 12, 2005

On Naivety (a continuing series) ...

As we all know (right?) the long-awaited musical comedy version of the 1930s paranoiafest favorite Reefer Madness premieres on Showtime this Saturday (April 16th) at 8 p.m., and will be rerun about 12 thousand times across the Viacom pay networks. It stars Alan Cumming – a.k.a. The X-Men’s Nightcrawler and Cabaret’s emcee, Kristen Bell and Christian Campbell, with the voice of Superman himself, Steven Weber, playing a drug “pusher.”

In an interview with the New York Daily News, Cumming said “What made the original film so funny was the ridiculousness of it, this authority figure pontificating on the so-called dangers around us. Now we’re actually living that.”

Can’t argue with that. But his co-star, Ms. Bell of UPN’s Veronica Mars, has spent her two dozen years on this planet in a fog. “It’s not anti-government,” Bell told the Daily News. “It’s not pro-government. It’s about thinking for yourself. It’s about not being a lemming, basically.”

Honey, that is the very essence of anti-government. Welcome to the Revolution.

Posted by Mike Gold at April 12, 2005 10:48 AM

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As we both know, Mike, it's usually a mistake to attempt to make a parody of a parody (even if the original was an unintentional parody). A musical version of Plan 9 from Outer Space would probably be more entertaining...but still not as (unintentionally) funny as the original. What's next? Maybe a rap/hip-hop Birth of a Nation? Triumph of the Will on Broadway?

Posted by: Rick Oliver at April 12, 2005 01:32 PM

You can parody a parody; it's just really hard to pull off. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons did an absolutely brilliant parody of Mad Comics' Dragged Net called Chronocops, a time travel story with the added benefit of having near-perfect internal consistency.

As for your suggestions, well, if you've seen what they've been putting on Broadway lately (Spamalot aside; it was brilliant), your concepts aren't too far from what's going down. 15 years ago I sarcastically suggested a musical version of "M." Today, I just might be able to get that up.

Posted by: Mike Gold at April 12, 2005 01:48 PM

Isn't Tim Daly the voice of Superman, not Steve Weber? They were both on WINGS, of course. Maybe it's Tony Shalhoub.

Posted by: Martha Thomases at April 12, 2005 04:33 PM

I stand corrected -- Ms. Thomasas is as knowledgable about Superman as she is about circumcision, and I appreciate her comments. I couldn't tell Weber and Daly apart.

Tony Shalhoub should have gotten the role in the upcoming movie. Who else could stand up to Bobby Darin?

Posted by: Mike Gold at April 12, 2005 04:47 PM

And just imagine how fast an obsessive-compulsive Superman could count parking meters or how clean Metropolis would suddenly be!

Posted by: Rick Oliver at April 13, 2005 10:13 AM

If Mort Weisinger were still alive, that would be a Red Kryptonite story.

Posted by: Mike Gold at April 13, 2005 10:16 AM

I saw the preview on Showtime, and noticed that "Madness"'s co-writer was named Kevin Murphy. Hmmm- was that the guy who played Tom Servo on Mystery Science Theater 3000?
The answer is no -- "Reefer"'s Murphy lives in L.A.
'Minneapolis' Kevin Murphy wrote a book called "A Year At The Movies," which I have to read now that I'm aware of it -- crazy guy saw a movie a day for a year and lived to tell about it.

Speaking of parodies of parodies -- what about "The Producers" or "Hairspray?" Will someone make mutanted movies like "Birdcage" since the adaptations were successful on Broadway?

Posted by: Michael Evans at April 13, 2005 01:43 PM

A remake of "Reefer Madness"? What are they smoking over there at Showtime?!? Oh wait... oh yeah.

Posted by: Isaac B2 at April 13, 2005 02:35 PM

Well, I just finished seeing it on Showtime East.
Despite any good intentions on the part of cast and crew, or the competent choreography (except for one LOUSY paux de deux), "Reefer Madness" is "ditch weed" -- delusional self-congratulation, pig-iron irony, but too little sharpness, or wit, and way too flaccid to count as camp. (Yawn)
The play did alright in Southern California, but laid an egg in New York. If that sounds a lot like "Rocky Horror," it a coincidence -- the thefts from O'Brien are obvious, as are cribs from "Little Shop," "Chicago," and any other musical tomato that's been thrown at the screen over the last 25 years.

Posted by: Michael Evans at April 16, 2005 11:13 PM

Well, we may have to agree to disagree about this one, my friend. I liked RM05 -- note, I said "liked." Quite frankly, this is right up my alley: a musical comedy about big business getting the federal government to create a moral issue to protect its financial interests, with an all-out assault on religious hyprocracy thrown in. That's my cup of tea ... and, no, I saw it straight.

I like the cast, I think Alan Cummins gave a first rate performance but I particularly enjoyed seeing John Kassir getting his long overdue showcase (no pun intended). After a handful of appearances in front of the camera, he's still best known -- if known at all -- as one of our leading voice actors, voicing The Cryptkeeper for, like, ever (he reprised the role for the upcoming Season One box set) and a legion of other characters.

There's a strong tendency on Broadway these days towards self-parody and, in some places, it's even intended: the brilliant Spamalot, for example. I don't see what you saw as thefts that way: in addition to Rocky Horror, Little Shop, and Chicago, they did up JC Superstar, Cummin's own performance in Cabaret, and any number of rancid Andrew Dice Webber productions.

The theme of the musical was confirmed by the very last line, when Cumming, driving off stage after appearing as FDR and the government spokesman, sings:

"When danger's here
we'll exploit their fear
The ends always justify the means."

As for its bombing off-Broadway, well, trust me. Reefer Madness was WAY too sophisticated for that anal retentive audience.

My suggestion: a great double-bill with the DVD of J-Men Forever. I guess an ounce of weed might be entertaining as well.

Posted by: Mike Gold at April 18, 2005 02:23 PM

No problem, Michael.
I'm glad that someone liked it. I see the aspects you point out, and can't argue with any of them.
If it says anything about my taste, the only time I laughed was when Steve Weber noticed Kristen Bell was shot and said "get the smelling salts."

"The Bank Dick" is on TCM -- now THAT'S funny, even though it isn't W.C. Fields' best film.

Posted by: Michael Evans at April 18, 2005 11:02 PM

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