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Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008

Getting Buzzed (Smiley Face)

A cannabis comedy

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If you smoke dope too often and for too long, you'll wind up acting like one-a dope, that is. The comedy Smiley Face is a day in the discombobulated life of Jane, a twentysomething pothead and wannabe actress who can't face the morning, or the afternoon and evening, without sucking on her bong. Her already precarious grip on everyday reality slips away entirely when she accidentally gobbles down a half-dozen pot-laced cupcakes in her refrigerator.

Jane panics, not because the buzz inside her brain has grown louder than ever, but because the dessert belonged to her sinister roommate, who was planning to serve them to his buddies at the sci-fi fantasy convention. She desperately tries to bake a new batch of pot treats before her roomie returns, which eventually entails finding money to buy a dime bag, navigating all the while the treacherous shallows of postmodern existence.

It's an amusing farce with a sharp edge. Anna Faris (Scary Movie) plays Jane as a vacant-eyed slacker with her mouth forming a perpetual "Wow." A hapless screwball, Jane forever circles in low gear around the cul-de-sac of her life, unable to see the exit sign.

Director Gregg Araki and screenwriter Dylan Haggerty position Jane as cute but pathetic, the butt of an ongoing series of jokes and gags about what can happen-absolute worst-case scenario-when pot smoking becomes a self-isolating prison. While trying to whip up a new batch of cannabis cupcakes, Jane's stove catches fire and her cell phone flies into the cooking pot in mid-conversation with her agent. Unable to identify the problem in the kitchen, she takes a hammer to the shrill beep of the smoke alarm.

Smiley Face's humor ranges further than poking fun at the habit-forming, de-motivational danger of too much dope. While Jane is utterly irresponsible, at least she isn't mean, like many of the straight people she encounters on her bungling daylong odyssey. Her problem is the bad choice she has made to dull the sharp edges of a world populated by blowhards and fools.

7 p.m. Aug. 31 and Sept. 2, UWM Union Theatre