Considering that he’s spent most of his career as a screenwriter of violent action movies—Commando (1985), Die Hard (1988), and so on—it’s surprising to note that Steven E. de Souza began his career as the auteur/star of a low-budget comedy about potheads becoming entrepreneurs. Arnold’s Wrecking Co. is very much a product of its time, so the film’s counterculture attitude, satirical jokes at the expense of big business, and wall-to-wall weed gags say more about the climate of the early ’70s than they do about anything else. That said, stoner humor finds new converts with every generation, so it’s easy to imagine modern tokers deriving some amusement from this inexpensively made and very short movie. Straights can play along, too, although the way the movie devolves into aimless and repetitive plotting is likely to test the patience of viewers who are not under the influence. After all, there are only so many times one can hear a version of Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus that substitutes the word “marijuana” for “hallelujah” before the parody wears thin.
The lackadaisical hero of the piece is Kenny (played by de Souza himself), a youth so slothful he eats cereal from the box to avoid having to wash a bowl. Excited about taking a trip with his buddies, he’s bummed when his mom says that Kenny is expected to entertain his dorky cousin, Arnold (Mike Renshaw), for an extended period. Yet things take a turn when Kenny persuades Arnold to get high for the first time. Arnold runs the numbers and realizes there’s a fortune to be made selling weed if standard corporate practices are applied. Sure enough, he founds a hugely successful weed company alongside Kenny and Kenny’s stoner buddies. De Souza constructs a lot of jokes by combining pot references with allusions to Establishment culture—the pot company gives out prizes to its 1,000th customer, and a testimonial dinner is held for top employees. Some of this is droll and some of this is dull, but what de Souza lacks in directorial flair, he makes up for in spunk. So even though Arnold’s Wrecking Co. is absurdly padded—seriously, what’s with the montage depicting the gang’s visit to a zoo?—the movie is consistently irreverent and upbeat.
Arnold’s Wrecking Co.: FUNKY