** out of ****
Inherent Vice wants to be a film noir mystery but with a stoner as the detective. The movie is based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon and is written for the screen and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, The Master).
Because Anderson is a huge fan of filmmaker Robert Altman, I suspect this is Anderson's homage to Altman's The Long Goodbye, the clever and offbeat 1973 film that placed private eye Philip Marlowe in 1970s Los Angeles. Inherent Vice takes place in L.A. in 1970, and drug-addled detective Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) ends up investigating the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend, Shasta (Katherine Waterston).
The film mainly consist of Sportello questioning oddball character after oddball character in an attempt to solve the mystery. There are too many characters here and many of them are unnecessary, and the whole mystery gets so convoluted that at the midway point I really didn't care any more. The performances are good, but at a running time of 148 minutes and with uninteresting characters and situations, this is one long slog of a movie.
Even though the Coen brothers stoner take on The Big Sleep, 1998's The Big Lebowski, is kind of sloppy, it is still brisk and funny and much more engaging than Inherent Vice. So, stay home, crack open your Big Lebowski Blu-ray and have a good time.