I truly expected “Grow House” to be another junk movie destined for a lifetime on the clearance DVD shelf at Walmart. Somehow it managed to get a limited theatrical release, which usually means there’s a little special something about the film. While it ticks off everything on the typical stoner comedy checklist, this celebration of devoted friendship and copious weed smoking is also quite entertaining overall.
The plot in this “Friday” meets “Up in Smoke” homage may be predictable, but it’s ripe with comedy potential that’s almost always fully realized. Pat (DeRay Davis) and Darius (Lil’ Duval) are low on cash and weed, so they decide to apply for a medical grow license as a business opportunity to solve both problems. Once they acquire their cards and become legal, the guys temporarily move into a foreclosed mansion in Bel Air to use as their grow house. They need to find an investor to front some “seed money” (get it?) who would agree to be paid back in product, so Darius Tweets to Snoop Dogg (playing himself), and the famous rapper agrees. It’s a funny premise that makes for a funny movie.
The two leads are naturally funny and have a great chemistry together. Their natural riffs feel comfortable and they’re guys you’d like to hang out with. Snoop brings a chill vibe and delivers his jokes with his innate coolness, but hey: this is Snoop we’re talking about here. Martin Starr shows up as hydroponics expert and resident weirdo Conspiracy Chris, there’s a silly bit with Charlamagne Tha God as Black Jesus, Faizon Love plays a disabled neighborhood bully, Lin Shaye provides some laughs as the drunk and horny neighbor Mrs. Gilliam, and there is a truly inspired and uproarious brief turn from Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Doobie. The acting isn’t going to win any awards, but does that really matter? If this film had been cast with some big Hollywood names, I think it could’ve done quite well at the box office.
What I like about this movie is that it pays attention to the details. There are several background sight gags that will reward viewers who are paying attention (make sure you look at the office decor in Dr. Doobie’s office). Writer and director DJ Pooh does nothing new here, but his style is straightforward, uncomplicated, and appropriate for the material. Get ready for lots of glamour shots of marijuana plants.
The story starts to wear thin as the film goes on, but it never gets boring because there are a couple of surprises along the way. This movie may offend those who are sensitive about the medical and recreational marijuana movement, and it’s filled with adult language and jokes that take aim at sexism, racism, and the handicapped. Some of the wisecracks push the envelope of good taste (like when Darius “takes one for the team” by being forced to sleep with Mrs. Gilliam in order to keep her from ratting them out to the cops), and others may be a bit too slapstick to make any lasting impact.
“Grow House” isn’t a game changer for the genre, nor is it one of the better stoner classics (“Pineapple Express,” “How High,” “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle”), but it earns a respectable place among other late night pothead films (and it’s way better than “Half Baked” or “Smiley Face”). If you’re a fan of these movies, you’ll probably dig this one: and this review’s for you. Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em.