R29 Rewind: Dude, We Totally Forgot About This Ashton Kutcher & Jennifer Garner Movie

Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX Shutterstock.
When the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2000, many people were terrified that the world was going to end. Y2K was going to take effect, and none of our technology was ready to accommodate the Gregorian year now starting with 20 instead of 19. We were headed toward full-blown pandemonium, and you’d be wise to have your underground bunker stocked with canned goods, Monopoly, and Twister.

Absolutely nothing of an apocalyptic nature happened, of course. And because everything was totally fine, we spent the next 12 months riding out a sweet, sweet year 2000 high. For the perfect example of just how fucking up in the clouds we were soaring, look no further than the fact that a movie studio greenlit a film called Dude, Where’s My Car?.

I like to imagine that the movie, which hit theaters on December 15, 2000, came into existence during a Very Important Hollywood Meeting that went something like this:

Studio executive 1: That Ashton Kutcher kid from That ‘70s Show is gonna be huge.

Marketing executive 1:
I know; he tests well with both male and female teen demographics.

Studio executive 2: You know who else is great? That Seann William Scott from American Pie.

Marketing exec. 1: Hilarious! He’s charting through the roof right now. (Shuffles some papers to look like there’s research to back this up.)

Studio exec. 1: Should we pair up Kelso and Stifler in a buddy comedy? It would have to be really dumb. I mean, they’re cute kids, but they don’t look like the sharpest tools in the shed, am I right? No one’s buying them as Mensa members.

Studio exec. 2: My degenerate son who’s spending his inheritance on marijuana won’t stop watching that one movie...Half-Baked?

Marketing exec. 1: A stoner comedy geared toward teenagers…that’s genius. Well, we can’t blatantly market it that way, but teens will know what’s up.

Studio exec. 2: Exactly. My son can’t boil water, but he can find all the drug references he thinks are hidden in the Toy Story trailer.

Studio exec. 1: Besides Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott playing stoner best friends, what should the movie be about?

Studio exec. 2: Does it matter?

[They all laugh and high five before counting their piles of money and eating steaks, because it's 2000 and everyone is doing Atkins.]

This article I just found with the film's production notes informs me that it unfortunately didn't happen that way, but whatever, I like to live my life according to John Lennon’s lyrics ("You may say I'm a dreamer."). In my mind, it’s almost as if Philip Stark, who’s credited as the movie’s writer, saw it as a personal challenge to take the carte blanche blank slate gifted to him by the ridiculous title-slash-premise and just sprint off into complete and utter madness with it. I mean, technically, a movie called Dude, Where’s My Car? need only be about two stoners looking for their misplaced automobile.

Instead, DWMC has an insane, epically mystical story. It may start with the simple titular query about a misplaced automobile, but the next thing you know, there are aliens. That’s right; mother-fucking creatures from outer space come down and interact with two affable stoners named Jesse (Kutcher) and Chester (Scott), the best bros of our story.

But before Jesse and Chester can save the universe (you didn’t think the aliens were just popping down for a visit, right? No; they’re here because the universe is in full-on jeopardy, and the only people who can save it are two deadbeats who can't even deliver pizza correctly) they’ve got to get out of the house. All heroes need a reason to start questing, and for Jesse and Chester, this impetus is one of the oldest in the book: courtly love.

Obviously, I'm dressing up their love in Arthurian trappings. In present-day parlance, our boys set off on their journey because they want to get laid. They’ve been dating twins named Wanda (Jennifer Garner...yes, Jennifer Garner is in this movie) and Wilma (Marla Sokoloff) for a year, and the twins have yet to sleep with them. Today’s their anniversary. This is quite shocking, because every single interaction Jesse and Chester have with the twins involves Wanda and Wilma expressing their extreme disgust with their boyfriends’ habits, lifestyle, relationship skills, and general existence.

Anyway, the boys awaken to an answering machine message from the twins promising them “special treats” if Jesse and Chester go to the twins’ house — which they destroyed partying last night — help them clean it up, and do something to show that they remembered their anniversary. Jesse and Chester assume “special treats” means sex, and nothing spurs two twenty-somethings into action more than the lure of getting it on.

The second they step out of their house though, you know shit’s about to pop off. “Dude, where’s my car?” Jesse asks. “Where’s your car, dude?” Chester chirps back. They repeat these lines back and forth to one another for maybe five minutes. It’s really more of a not-so-subtle hint to viewers that if they’re not currently finding this funny, they have time to hit the nearest bong, and it will probably be the peak of humor afterward. (The same is true of the civil engineer conversation in Pineapple Express.)

Jesse and Chester establish that the car has, in fact, disappeared. In keeping with the complete randomness of the movie, here's a scattered list of things that appear or happen over the course of the next hour or so: aliens in the form of sexy women wearing black catsuits, aliens in the form of European-looking men, a dog who smokes weed out of a pipe (and gets angry if you stop him), Jesse getting into a questionably racist argument with a speaker at a Chinese restaurant drive-thru, the stoner update to “Who’s On First?,” a cult whose members dress in bubble wrap jumpsuits and worship a man named Zoltan (Hal Sparks), Jesse and Chester making out with one another in an attempt to one-up Fabio at a red light, a weird interlude about how terrifying ostriches (which are not llamas) can be when you’re on their turf, and an entirely fourth-wall breaking montage that’s more like a music video for “Bust a Move.”

Oh, and finding the car? It becomes secondary to locating something called the continuum transfunctioner, a device that can apparently destroy the entire universe with the push of a button. Jesse and Chester get caught between all of the aforementioned rival groups of aliens and cult members, who all want to get ahold of the continuum transfunctioner.

They do wind up saving the universe, of course, because these lovable stoner dudes are our heroes. They also find their car, which contains anniversary presents for the twins (how convenient). As a sign of gratitude for helping to save the universe, the aliens leave necklaces that make Wilma and Wanda’s breasts grow larger when they put them on. Everybody wins!

Well, not quite. The “special treats” the twins promised are actually berets with their names on them. Jesse and Chester’s dry spell continues, but at least they have a car. All’s well that ends well.
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Now, I personally have hazy-yet-fond memories of this movie because it’s what I consider to be the “Netflix and chill” of my high school experience. See, when I was a teenager, Netflix didn’t exist, so obviously, neither could the concept of Netflix and chill. We had to have a different sort of code for when two people obviously wanted to hook up, but were still too immature to say something as direct as, “Hey, let’s skip the whole pretense of putting on a movie we’re obviously not going to watch and just get down to business.”

For some inexplicable reason, Dude, Where’s My Car? became that code. If someone suggested the two of you get together to watch this particular movie, you knew it was on. I have definitely not watched this movie many times, if you catch my drift. Ah, high school.

We also enjoyed just straight chilling (no proverbial Netflix and...) in a group and watching DWMC, because it’s everything a bunch of high schoolers who may or may not be under the influence of some substances are capable of enjoying. The central premise of the movie is that two stoners can’t find their car. During the opening credits, you soar through a purple galaxy as dancing flamingos and anthropomorphized cartoon rabbit women fly by. It’s no Inception, but it’s where you’re at, mentally, when you’ve reached the peak Dude, Where’s My Car? enjoyment level.

Obviously, teens and stoners were the movie’s target audience, because it was a box-office success despite being critically panned. As if stone-cold sober movie critics, sitting in a screening room with their pens and notebooks out, waiting to scoff at the ridiculous title and lambast even more from there, would get it. The movie has also gone on to earn cult status because of its ridiculous premise and title.

You want to hate on Dude, Where’s My Car?, but you can’t. You just can’t. When I recently turned it on for a 15th anniversary rewatch, I was ready to hate and judge my high-school self's immature taste. But as soon as those opening credits took me to space, I knew I was in for a batshit cray good time. Kutcher and Scott are goofy idiots who just fucking go for it. The movie is dumb as shit, yes, but it’s not like we all watch Citizen Kane and friggin documentaries every day. (If you do, I doff my imaginary cap to you, bastion of cinematic taste.)

Oh and the best part is that DWMC is currently streaming on you-know-what, which makes it perfect for the next time you do want to Netflix and chill and bust a move.
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