Ring in the New Year, but without these people.
It’s New Year’s Eve 1981 and everyone’s out there lookin’ to find that special someone, or to get drunk, or to score some drugs, or to get laid, or hell, all of the above. None of these people really care, because they just want to get over the crap year that they’ve already had, get whacked out of their minds, join a party or two, and move on with their lives. Even if that means bedding some rando for a little bit, then so be it. For instance, there’s a young couple (Jay Mohr and Kate Hudson), who get together, only to then realize that one was a virgin and wants something more out of the relationship. There’s one story involving two besties (Paul Rudd and Courtney Love), who want to get over their ex’s and will do whatever they can to find that special someone when the clock strikes at 12. Then, there’s two young girls (Gaby Hoffmann and Christina Ricci), who are out on the town and roaming for whatever parties they can find. And then, finally, there’s another upper-class girl (Martha Plimpton) planning a stacked and studded New Years party, but for some reason, nobody’s coming. Like, at all.
Oh, and Dave Chappelle plays a cab driver that keeps conspicuously showing up whenever the movie needs some laughs.
Why didn’t 200 Cigarettes work? Some chalk it up to the fact that it was released in February, therefore, not really serving as the movie you need to see before the holiday was around. Others chalk it up to the fact that it was produced heavily by MTV, despite it being about a generation that the MTV crowd would have little to nothing to relate to. And others mostly just say that it was that there was no real driving-force behind the movie, despite the non-stop barrage of names in the ensemble, as nobody here was really all that huge or as established as they would be in another year or so.
But another reason, and here’s my crazy theory, is that it just sucked.
Plain and simple.
And yes, 200 Cigarettes sucks. It’s the kind of movie that should have been a fine and fun time, with charming people, a charming holiday to revolve around, and an even more so charming soundtrack of pure disco and new wave hits. But instead, it becomes this annoying, unfunny, and terrible waste of a movie that has no clue what it wants to do with everyone who’s in it, nor does it ever really seem to make much sense of itself. It wants to be a raunchy, dirty and over-the-top R-rated comedy about a bunch of young hooligans doing what they can to find that special someone, but also wants to be a sweet, sentimental, and nostalgic R-rated comedy about the same thing. It’s going for that American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused vibe, but instead, feels like an overly-plotted, over-written, and over-acted Robert Altman movie, done for the MTV crowd.
Sure, that sounds interesting, on paper, but as it plays out, on film, it doesn’t work. It’s just dull and nothing much else to it. It’s not funny in the slightest and even when you think that the movie’s given up on trying to make us laugh, it brings another random cast-member in and, guess what? Does what it can to reel the laughs right out of us.
But it doesn’t work. Like, at all.
And what makes it even worse is that, again, the cast is so stacked and impressive, it’s hard not to take notice. But with a movie like 200 Cigarettes, you have talented people like Dave Chappelle, Courtney Love, Elvis Costello, Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, Martha Plimpton, Paul Rudd, Janeane Garofalo, Christina Ricci, Jay Mohr, Kate Hudson, Gaby Hoffman, David Johansen and Caleb Carr, to name a few, and none of them are given anything hilarious or fun to do. Some, like Chappelle and Rudd, overcome the material because they seem to be giving it their all and seeing whatever sticks, but everybody else here is just stuck being caricatures of people who are supposed to be funnier and a whole lot more interesting, but nope, they’re not. They’re just annoying and as phony as you can get.
It’s weird too, because, like I said, everyone here went on to do much better, much more interesting, and oh yeah, way more interesting things with their careers. In a way, 200 Cigarettes can work as a bittersweet bit of nostalgia, because it features literally everyone before they grew up, got smart, possibly fired their agents, and started doing much more interesting things with their careers. Sure, people like David Johansen, Angela Featherstone, and Caleb Carr, sort of fell-off the map, never to be heard from again, but maybe they saw this and thought, “Maybe it’s time to take a break and pick things up later.”
Thankfully, nobody else her got that memo, even though we wouldn’t blame them for having done so.
Consensus: Even with a crazy talented ensemble, 200 Cigarettes is purely unfunny and dull, stretching itself far and wide beyond its promising premise of everything happening in one, crazy, eventful night.
2 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Paramount Pictures