The legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado has led to a so-called “green rush” of prospectors looking to cash in. Can the commercial potential from this newly sanctioned vice revitalize a newspaper industry struggling in the Internet age?
Documentarian Mitch Dickman’s “Rolling Papers” follows Ricardo Baca, marijuana editor at the Denver Post since 2013, to find out. Yet despite slick production values, this look at the intersection of two potentially fascinating subcultures — journalists and stoners — yields only half-baked results.
Denver Post editor Gregory L. Moore picked Baca from the ranks of his music writers, confident that he would be equally at home with pot. This logic points to one of the film’s weaknesses. “Rolling Papers” is scored with a variety of pot-friendly music, from stoner hip-hop to reggae. Unfortunately, the cues come off as increasingly flip when the film turns from its recreational subject to more serious matters, as when shots are fired at an outdoor cannabis festival.
Even as Baca assembles his team of writers, the film devotes less time to writing than to product photography of pot varieties with names like “Death Panda.” “Rolling Papers” is tailor-made for viewers who inhale. But those who don’t (and even some who do) may not find all of its subjects equally compelling.
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One of the more intriguing people in the film is the strait-laced journalist who declines to partake of his subject, and who is eventually taken off the beat. Writing about pot may require a balance between obsession and detachment, but too much of the latter, it seems, gets you expelled from the club.
(At Screenland Crossroads.)
Not rated. Time: 1:39.