Film: Reefer Madness: The Musical

Creeping like a communist
It's lurking at our doors
Turning all our children
Into hooligans and whores!

The 1998 musical adaptation of the 1936 propaganda film Reefer Madness (also known as Tell Your Children!.) As you might expect, it eschewed that unintentional satire of the original for very intentional satire. The film uses the original's framework, opening with a group of concerned parents congregating for a film presentation, proffered by a man who just oozes ulterior motive. The movie he shows tells the story of Jimmy Harper and Mary Lane, two upstanding, innocent children, whose lives devolve into a twisted spiral of sex, violence, and snack food courtesy of the evils of marihuana. All the while, the original audience reacts with revulsion, shock, and the occasional incredulity.

The film stars Alan Cumming, Kristen Bell, Christian Campbell, Steven Weber, Ana Gasteyer, and the dude who did the voice of the Crypt Keeper. It premiered on Showtime in 2005.

Reefer Madness: The Musical provides examples of:

  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: Mary and Jimmy are studying Romeo AND Juliet, starting with the proo-low-gwee.
  • Adaptation Expansion: In the stage show, Mae's summoning of FDR is laughed off under Rule of Funny as 'It's a funny story,' and dropped. In the movie, FDR is established as being in town earlier and even contains a sequence of her fighting through his guards to talk to him.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations
  • An Aesop: The original film was clearly an overblown attempt at anti-marijuana propaganda. The musical goes out of its way to demonize..... propaganda.
  • Angry Mob Song: The very end of the film, complete with book-burning bonfire. Considering the motives of the Narrator, it must mean the film was a rousing success.
  • Anthropomorphic Food: The pot-brownie-as-prostitute that Jimmy has sex with in "The Brownie Song" cartoon segment.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "My innocence ravaged! / My virtue devoured! / I can't count the strangers with whom I have showered!"
  • Bad Girl Song: Combines with the Face-Heel Turn of the innocent Mary Lane, whose single run-in with marijuana leaves her fit to be tied.
  • Bastard Girlfriend: Mary, under the influence of reefer.
  • Beat Still, My Heart: Mae, after beating Jack to death, rips out his heart at the end of "The Stuff" reprise.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Subverted. The nice ones are the nice ones. But once they start smoking, they cause more trouble than the bad guys.
  • Between My Legs: Jesus crawls through a tunnel of legs in "Listen To Jesus, Jimmy" in the movie.
  • Billing Displacement: Neve Campbell has higher billing than 3 others with major roles (see image above), yet only appears during the malt-shop scene.
  • Black Comedy: A lot of humor is gotten out of drug addiction, infidelity, rape, murder, and cannibalism.
  • Black Comedy Rape: Unlike the 1936 film it was based on.
  • Blatant Lies:
    I'm not addicted, no / I just enjoy the glow
  • Chekhov's Gun: Jack using more than one bullet to kill Ralph may seem like a joke at first, but he's out of bullets when Mae tries to kill him.
  • Completely Missing the Point: Essentially the joke behind "Romeo & Juliet."
    I bet Romeo
    Marries his Juliet
    They have a baby, and make lots of friends!
    That's probably the way the play ends!
  • Composite Character: Jimmy Harper is basically Jimmy Lane and Bill Harper from the original movie combined into one character.
  • Critical Research Failure: In-universe with Romeo and Juliet. It's one of the most well known tragic endings in history. How do you not know this? note 
  • Dark Reprise: The reprise of "Romeo and Juliet."
  • Death by Adaptation: Ralph survives in the original film, but is killed off in the musical.
  • Delicious Distraction: The entire joke behind "The Brownie Song."
  • Died Happily Ever After: Parodied. In the final song Mary is released from Purgatory and Jimmy tells her to wait for him. '"One day I'll get cancer, or hit by a train!"
    • In stage productions, they seem to like making up new ways for him to die. When I saw it last year, one of them was "eaten by wild bears."
  • Disney Acid Sequence: "The Brownie Song" in the film.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Mary seems to be singing about something else during "Lonely Pew."
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Averted. While it's played as comedy, it's shown to be clearly not "okay," although to be fair if it WAS reversed, it would be a huge case of Dude, Not Funny!. Also, the scene role reverses that of the original 1936 version; in the musical, Mary tries to rape Ralph when she gets stoned, instead of the other way around.
    • It's really more like he was trying to take advantage of her and got way more than he bargained for. You might say they tried to rape each other.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Jimmy and Mary...after one puff of marijuana.
  • Fanservice Extra: In the stage version a girl in a bikini will occasionally walk through carrying a sign with a message on it.
  • Foot Popping: Jimmy and Mary both do this at one point during the "Romeo and Juliet" song.
  • Gender Flip: The owner of the Five and Dime is changed from male in the original movie and play to female in the 2005 version. This was done to create a role for Neve Campbell.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "Don't get queer on me!"
  • Heel-Face Turn: Jimmy during the final song.
  • Humble Goal:
    I've taken a life,
    Been stripped to my essence,
    And to think all I wanted was swing dancing lessons!
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Ralph when he gets the 'munchies.'
    • The Chinese in the movie are also suggested to be this.
    Chinese restaurant owner [to Sally's baby]: Care to stay for... dinah?
  • The Ingenue: Mary Lane. She's a sixteen year-old girl who loves babies, considers nine pm the middle of the night, and apologizes to God for the mortal sin of lying about a seat being taken.
  • Jesus Was Way Cool: Even though he supports the anti-marijuana stance that the musical parodies, Jesus makes up for it with an awesome song, a Walking Shirtless Scene, and a troupe of sexy, angelic backup singers. He also offers The Moral Substitute of getting high off God.
  • Karmic Rape: This happens in the musical number "Little Mary Sunshine," in which Ralph's marijuana-facilitated attempted seduction of Mary goes horribly, horribly wrong.
    Ralph: Help! This crazy tomato's RAPIN' me!
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In the stage show, everyone from the Lecturer to Jesus will directly address the audience.
    Mary Lane, Oh, Mary Lane
    Will help you sing a new refrain.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Ralph.
  • Marijuana Is LSD: Just like in the original, but this time it's played for laughs. Actors appearing in the stage show are instructed to act like they're on crack, rather than pot.
  • The Moral Substitute: In-universe example: in the film version, at the end of "Listen To Jesus, Jimmy," Jesus challenges Jimmy to "take a hit of God" and see if he can "handle the high". Jimmy refuses, saying, "I've got a new god now!"
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: Easy to miss (as it's during the climax of Murder) but Jack is of the opinion that 'the winner is the last one left alive.'
  • Not Using the Z Word: For a fairly light-hearted musical parodying old propaganda flicks and after-school specials, there are an awful lot of Zombies in it.
    • However, Ralph does remark "Bad zombies!" during the movie version of "Murder."
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Jesus keeps doing this during the "Listen To Jesus, Jimmy" musical number. Seeing that he's Jesus, it's completely justified.
  • Only Sane Man: Mr. Zalenski is the only person in the audience to question the Narrator's propaganda.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: A most triumphant example, as some changes made for the movie, like "Dead Old Man" being replaced by "Mary Jane/Mary Lane" and "The Truth" replacing the reprise of "Reefer Madness," were so popular that most stage productions now include those changes.
  • Shout-Out: "A little orphan girl once told me that the sun would come out tomorrow. Her adopted father was a powerful billionaire, so I suppressed the urge to laugh in her face."
  • Spit Take: Evidently Satan did not expect Jimmy to turn Jesus down on his sales pitch.
  • The Stinger: If the audience sticks around after the credits, they are rewarded with Satan laughing in their face.
  • Tenor Boy : Jimmy fits this to a T
  • Triumphant Reprise: May's reprise of "The Stuff."
    • In the stage version Jesus reprises "Listen to Jesus, Jimmy" at Jimmy's execution to mock him for not listening to him.
  • Widowed at the Wedding: In the film version, Jimmy Harper and Mary Lane imagine themselves at their wedding when Mary was shot during the gun struggle between Jimmy and Jack the dope dealer, singing the reprise of "Romeo and Juliet" while Mary dies in Jimmy's arms.
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