‘Goats,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


It used to be that a movie that celebrated the use of marijuana was considered shocking, scandalous, unacceptable and inappropriate. To some people, it probably still is.

These days, smoking weed is a staple in popular entertainment – not just as a cheap punchline but as a regular story element, in movies and on TV. And not just pay-cable shows like “Weeds,” but the networks as well.

With the novelty worn off, it now takes more than the introduction of a joint or a bong to get a laugh – or just an initial laugh – out of an audience. That fact apparently has been lost on filmmaker Christopher Neil, whose “Goats” opens in limited release today (8/10/12) after its Sundance debut earlier this year.

A mild and wholly predictable  coming-of-age tale set partially in Tucson and partly in an East Coast prep school, “Goats” focuses on Ellis (Graham Phillips), an achiever in spite of himself. It’s not that he doesn’t care about school; he’s actually a pretty good student, despite the fact that he spends a lot of time toking up.

His parents are divorced. His mother Wendy (Vera Farmiga) is a new-age seeker who also happens to be a trust-fund baby. So she can spend her time doing yoga or meditation or any other form of self-actualization that catches her magpie-like sense of attention. Her relationship with Ellis is mostly through her checkbook.

With his father remarried and living out East, Ellis’ main male role model is the stereotypically hermit-looking guy known as Goatman (David Duchovny), who lives on the property, does the landscaping, keeps a few goats and raises a particularly potent strain of herb. He’s the wise man to Ellis’ student, the one who encourages Ellis to apply to (and attend) the East Coast prep school that also graduated his father.

This review continues on my website.

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