Eye For Film >> Movies >> Ripped (2017) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Brad Epstein's venture into the world of stoner comedy begins with the quoted assurance that cannabis is not a real drug because people don't give head for it. It then breaks with that assurance at the earliest opportunity (heterosexually, of course, because the buddy movie, dependent as it is on homoeroticism, hasn't yet figured out how to handle homosexuality). US taboos around cunnilingus being what they are, this probably has sufficient shock value to provide both comedy and an explanation of how two clueless teenagers manage to get their hands on super-secret CIA weed. It will later venture joyously into territory that still terrifies the British censors, but meanwhile, time passes - a whole 30 years.
This isn't some kind of stoner life story. Rather, that 30 years is the length of time that our heroes spend sleeping because the CIA weed is so strong. When they wake up, adjusting without comment to the fact that they're now no longer teenagers and are played by Russell Peters and Faizon Love, they find that the world is no longer the way it was in the 1980s. Points of fascination include mobile phones, urinals that flush themselves, cannabis being legal for medical use, and the fact that the President is a black man. One can only imagine what they would have thought if they'd woken up a year later.
There's lots of silly comedy potential here. It's well played with relatively little exposition and an awareness of the fact that these two fortysomething men are really still teenagers. Eighties attitudes to women inevitably lead to some crude comments but the bored responses these provoke offer a more sophisticated comedic response and emphasise our heroes' fish out of water situation. Curiously, however, this whole theme is abandoned almost completely about half way through to make way for a story about the pair trying to start a business, and a bland romcom story for Peters' character, who tries to get back together with childhood sweetheart Debbie (Alex Meneses). Cue him having to grow up and her rediscovering her youth. Move along folks. Nothing to see here.
The uneven nature of the script and this slapdash glueing-together of three narratives means that, in its later stages, the film is more miss than hit. A more mature, sensible Peters just isn't as much fun, and Love struggles to carry the sillier scenes by himself, having little to work with. There are enough cute little observations about the business world to suggest that this part of the story could have stood on its own, but in the end it's underdeveloped. Ultimately it's not really clear what audience it's aiming for - mainstream lightweght comedy fans or stoners looking for a film they can enjoy whilst high - and it doesn't offer enough substance for either.
Where the film does succeed is at a technical level. It's much more polished than most stoner comedies, and this is likely to stand in its favour over time. It also has a score that successfully sets the mood when the actors can't. Meneses makes a good stab at her underwritten role and Bridger Zadina is effective in a tricky bridging role as the son she doesn't want to see dragged into a damaging lifestyle. It should go without saying that the film takes a wholly positive attitude to cannabis, with an argument made, at one point, that it helps people with limited time to live see that time pass more slowly. Perhaps this remark is intended to balance the abyss of horror at the heart of the film - the irrecoverable loss of 30 years of life for both these men. If so, it doesn't succeed, but what Ripped does very well is to make the case that if one does find oneself in a situation like that, there's no point in worrying about it - one might as well have a good time.Reviewed on: 19 Jun 2017