All the publicity for this movie makes it sound as though it's some kind of stoner romp—a cross between Doc Hollywood and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. Nothing could be further from the truth, and that might be why I enjoyed Humboldt County so damn much. Though three-quarters of the film's characters make their living solely from the cultivation of marijuana, there isn't even one fusty pot pun in the whole movie.
Unfortunately, there's not much originality there, either. It's the story of hyperstraitlaced Peter (Jeremy Strong), a privileged premed student who just... can't... feel. But after an awkward one-night stand with a free-spirited woman improbably named Bogart (Fairuza Balk, who is looking more and more like post-op Michael Jackson in every successive movie), Peter finds himself improbably dragged to Humboldt County, California, where he learns important life lessons from Bogart's family of laid-back pot farmers. Improbably. It's all very Garden State, but Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs earn major gold stars for not making the pot farmers caricatures. Brad Dourif, for once, doesn't overplay his meager acting hand as the old hippie paterfamilias, and Chris Messina, as an ambitious young single father trying to evade the DEA, brings impressive gravitas to what could easily be an annoying role.
Humboldt County has its heart in the right place, but, ultimately, that's just not enough. The lessons that Peter learns from his wacky new adoptive family could just as easily be picked up from a particularly meaningful Hallmark card, and there's never any doubt that he's going to learn to become a better human being by the end of the film. As a character sketch of a tight-knit community of burned-out hippies, the movie excels. As a drama, the whole thing goes up in smoke.