Weed in Art: TAG

The Weed In Art series analyzes depictions of, well, what else: weed in art.

Remember when I discussed the lowest-common-denominator humor deployed at the willing expense of Ted Danson’s stoner in Hearts Beat Loud?

Of course you do; it was only yesterday.

Sorry for asking such a dumb question; Tag’s stupidity must be contagious.

In this new “comedy”— the genre describes its aspirations more than its execution — Jake Johnson fills Danson’s shoes as the target of stereotypical scorn flung in the direction of his perpetually-high character. Though these jokes are about as played out as Tag’s general framework — a bunch of dudes restrengthen the waning bonds of their friendship through unfunny hi-jinx (I love me some Don Draper, and I never want to type cast anyone…but are we sure Jon Hamm’s funny? Jeremy Renner, more of a newcomer to the humor game, garners chuckles, but perhaps not for the reasons he intends) — I appreciated that, much like Danson, Johnson doesn’t turn into a bumbling goofball with a voracious appetite after one hit. Not even after an untold number of hits.

In fact, Tag understands that the personalities of a majority of stoners don’t become bigger stoners when they’re stoned. Rather, these people became stoners in the first place because their natural dispositions lend themselves to enjoying being high. Weed doesn’t turn stoners into stoners; stoners are attracted to weed because they’re already predisposed to be stoners. Thus, their demeanors shouldn’t drastically change while under the influence.

And Johnson’s’s doesn’t, praise be. Even better, Tag avoids casting the stoner as the wackiest of the crew; of course it was Zach Galifianakis’ oddball that drugged the boys in the too-similar, infinitely-superior The Hangover. I’m not even sure any of Tag‘s individual bros stand apart as the weirdest — Ed Helms is probably the closest? — which is one of its roughly 250,720,497,402 problems. But whatever; all I care about for the purposes of this piece is that the stoner is actually fairly normal.

But Tag commits a far more damning misstep in terms of its depiction of weed that overshadows this relative restraint: the use of CGI smoke, a cardinal sin of such depictions. I understand that tarring lungs take after take might make for an uncomfortable experience for the actor…but sometimes acting requires harmless sacrifices. I know it’s hard to generate sufficient plumage, but that’s why casting a pro familiar with the greenery is always advisable, especially for a character that indulges so relentlessly.

Dramaturgs in theatre ensure that every component of the onstage world is true to the writer and director’s vision. It’s just as important — if not more so, given the fact that theatre is inherently more theatrical than film — for movies to project as much realistic naturalism as possible. That’s what makes ensuring smoking is represented accurately so essential. Though it’s patently less egregious for a comedy to forsake reality in the name of silliness, any misrepresentation of the truth can always hinder the effect of the work’s overall truth, removing the audience from remaining sufficiently engaged in the world; unengaged audiences tend not to laugh.

Sometimes, betraying that world in a micro sense can reduce a movie’s success on a macro level.

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