Well, this right here - was a lot. As much as I try to advocate for longer comedies than the standard 85-90 minute films we typically see, I've always understood why they tend to be shorter too. It all comes down to the writing, what gets included, and what gets cut. You can pull off a longer comedy if you're going for a hybrid mix between some substantial plot and a whole bunch of laughs. If you're going for all laughs, all the time, then shorter is the way to go no matter how funny something might be – we need that extra time to catch our breath and reset for that next joke, and without it, you can be in for a much more complicated battle uphill than a good time truly deserves.
"We Need Rent Money" never takes its foot off the gas in that regard and ticks dangerously past the all-hallowed ninety-minute mark. Even as the film began at what felt like warp speed - introducing us to the characters post-credits, you get a sense of how "We Need Rent Money" will try and jam everything into one experience - instead of spreading everything it wants to include in a trilogy. I'm not going to lie to you. It got my anxiety twitching as I tried to keep pace with the beginning, but what's equally true is that once you settle into it, there are some really solid laughs to be found. I'm not talkin' about anything made for your momma here – "We Need Rent Money" is plenty juvenile, but that's typically where I'm at on a mental level myself. So seeing things like the main characters waking up after a big night of partying with dicks drawn onto their faces is all good with me. Or having one of the supporting cast members, Ash (played perfectly by an underused Liv Tavernier), come bursting through the door, enthusiastically proclaiming, "this whole party can eat my ass" – I love that kind of shit because I've been broken-in soundly within the Kevin Smith generation.
The reality is that a film like "We Need Rent Money" actually has a lot more in common stylistically with 80s comedies than it would with the 90s or anything beyond that timeframe. That's not necessarily a bad thing – that might be your jam, and if it is, right on, high-five from me. It harkens back to a day of less objectivity and scrutiny through the writing/editing process, though, where every scene gets acceptance, and not much ends up on the cutting room floor, which is a bit on the dangerous side of filmmaking in our modern-day era overall. On the one hand, you've got things generally moving so quickly that it appeals directly to the attention spans of the phone generation and the multi-taskers we've become. Still, by that same token, "We Need Rent Money" includes so much that it's harder to stick with. During the scenes that establish the tone and kind of comedy we're watching, such as the parts with them in school. Nathan Shaprio is stellar as Professor Brummit, but also very much underused, or the character of Sanders (Sampson Ray Simon) eating cereal out of a Ziploc bag with beer instead of milk – "We Need Rent Money" quickly gets some great things going. You factor in the natural charisma of Malakhai Schnell (Fred) and the comically-inclined Jason Leva (Larry) with the loose plotline of them needing money to make rent, and we've got all the right ingredients for a stoner comedy that should keep you entertained. Other notables like the characters of White Wally (Raymond Power) and Bill The Landlord (Gar Rodgers) deserve a shout-out as well for the clever ways they play their characters in this movie, even with much less screen time than many of the others you'll find.
Sometimes less is more, as they say, and that's probably what I'd recommend to writer/director Blake Laitner if asked. In terms of the effort, buy-in, and commitment from everyone involved, I've really got nothing but love for them all – they're just doing a "bit" too much. We start to feel that wear and tear on the main ideas centered around the plotline in "We Need Rent Money" as the story attempts to branch out in too many directions before things devolve into partying being the ultimate solution. I'm all for infusing the drug culture into films. I've got no issues with drinking or partying either - but I suppose it's that these plot devices are ones that we're all familiar with, and I'm not entirely convinced "We Need Rent Money" breaks an inch of new ground in that regard. Not that every film must push the boundaries or be groundbreaking – in fact, most movies don't, and unique ideas are truly rare - that's why they're unique. But at the same time, you want to be mindful of mining terrain that has had all the roots pulled from the soil long ago. Make sense? So while it's very much true that I felt like Leva and Ray Simon continually delivered consistent laughs and brought a ton of genuine fun to the screen, it felt like they were exceeding expectations to that end, with this content being familiar to us in so many ways. Even with what they bring to it, it's still tough to say that they were able to carry enough of the load to not make "We Need Rent Money" feel as long as it ended up being. If Laitner had cut out a twenty-minute chunk of this movie, the storyline itself would not have suffered, and there's a strong chance it would have allowed the remaining scenes to be more engaging.
As it currently stands, this feels like a movie that friends made for friends - and I don't know if that's going to be enough for the rest of us outside the circle. I salute the commitment because there's no doubt that a lot of effort has been put into making this film from everyone involved on both sides of the camera's lens. But it felt like "We Need Rent Money" drifts away from the mark it intended to hit like a bong hit into the wind. Bonus points for the music in this movie, though, which includes its own theme song and also features Sanders kickin' rhymes as he tries to shift into a career as a professional rapper. I liked everything I heard throughout the movie, straight into the credits at the end. I'm going to meet this one right at the centerline, though, with two and a half stars out of five. "We Need Rent Money" seems like a movie that needs to be paired down objectively, but it also feels like it'll be a strong stepping stone towards that next film through the many lessons learned by all.