The venerable genre of the stoner comedy gets one of its lamest entries ever in Smiley Face, a would-be Homer's Odyssey of zany mishaps by a pothead even Tommy Chong would look down on. Indie director Gregg Araki has made some interesting (if uneven) films about early-20s dead-enders (The Doom Generation, Nowhere), but Smiley Face falls well short of that minimal standard. Since Anna Faris is a likeable actress, even a single logical decision during the course of the narrative might have taken steps toward winning our affections. Instead, her Jane tramples on anyone who tries to help, and stoops to clichéd "high behavior" that would have seemed exaggerated even when the first stoner comedies were written. (And shouldn't Araki have just committed to hitting us over the head by calling her Mary Jane?) If this were a dramatic cautionary tale about drugs, that would be one thing. But in a loopy comedy, she needs to show some possibility of redemption, else she's just a pitiable train wreck. The peripheral characters also fall flat, notably a stiff John Krasinski (The Office) inexplicably cast as a nerdish dullard -- a far cry from Jim Halpert, the thinking woman's hunk. The only effective secondary performance belongs to Adam Brody as Jane's dealer, who supplies the ounce of weed with which she hopes to replace the pot cupcakes she "mistakenly" scarfed down. But by upending the entire bag -- and 12 sticks of butter -- into a frying pan, then dumping the resulting mess in the sink, she fritters away the first of many golden opportunities to save herself. Not to mention any possibility of leaving the viewer with something to smile about.
by Derek Armstrong review