You worry about a film with a narcoleptic character. Probably the only condition more often exploited in movies for easy laughs is Tourette’s Syndrome.
“Rolling Kansas,” a not unenjoyable little outing, has its share of easy laughs and too-familiar situations, and it lacks the heartfelt characters that could have made it a great comedy. But it has a certain wit and whimsy to it, and even when it’s trying to push the envelope, it never seems to mean any offense. You can like this movie, even if you never care to see it again.
Somewhere in Kansas, we are told, is a vast government-owned marijuana farm. A map to this legendary place has been left to the Murphy brothers, children of hippies who were carted off to jail when the boys were wee.
The boys — just-divorced Dick (James Roday), wheelchair-bound Dink (Sam Huntington) and non-descript Dave (Jay Paulson) — leave middle Texas in a junker car to find and harvest some of this pot, with the intention of selling it, thus solving all of their various financial problems. (It is worth noting that in this stoner comedy, the stoners rarely indulge themselves in marijuana. Their interest in it seems to be more financial than recreational.)
Along for the ride are the brothers’ friends Hunter (Ryan McDow), a hefty fellow who carries Dink around after his wheelchair is stolen; and Kevin (Charlie Finn), a dim, grinning young man with a knack for being unconcerned even in the most dire of circumstances. (When the five are sitting on the road while a state trooper pulls multiple beer cans out of their trunk, Kevin says, “I like your hat,” and he means it.)
The script, by first-time writer David Denney, forgets that we have seen road-trip comedies before, and thus are no longer especially amused by car troubles, run-ins with the law, or encounters with animals. The script could use stronger focus, too. The objective seems to be to find the marijuana forest, but then that is achieved and the film still has 25 minutes left. These are matters of rising and falling action that should be straightened out in the first semester of film school.
The director is Thomas Haden Church, who played Lowell on TV’s “Wings” and has two roles here, as a DEA agent and a cop. His skill is no more than proficient, and slightly less than that in the film’s middle section, where the screenplay problems are not helped any by unimaginative direction.
And yet, the movie made me laugh quite a few times. Some of the lunacy is a bit forced, but some of it is truly inspired, as with Dick’s account of his parents’ commune being invaded, and Kevin’s amusingly laidback road to self-awareness. Any movie that begins with a quote attributed to Thomas Edison stating that “somewhere out there is a big-ass forest of weed” cannot be all bad.
B- (1 hr., 27 min.; )