That's the line on Substance D, the drug that oils the squeaky wheels in A Scanner Darkly, Richard Linklater's animated version of Philip K. Dick's 1977 overdose of a novel. Dick, whose posthumous influence continues to spread like a virus, believed that reality was for those who can't handle drugs, having handled more than his share of them during his lifetime. But he also believed that reality is...unreal, a form of mass psychosis, a consensual hallucination. And he thought that the government had a much bigger stake in the War on Drugs than everybody realized. They want us narcotized, so we're easier to keep track of. Paranoia runs deep, but, as they said back in the day, that doesn't mean nobody's following you.
Hell, you may wind up following yourself. Set in Anaheim, near Uncle Walt's Magic Kingdom, A Scanner Darkly introduces us to Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves), whose name suggests he's either a narc or an actor. Actually, he's a bit of both Ã?' an undercover cop who's infiltrated the lower rungs of a drug operation in the hopes of climbing the ladder. But Bob himself has started taking Substance D, either of his own free will or because that's exactly what his superiors expected him to do. And he's become so chummy with his fellow addicts Ã?' the hyper-intelligent, hyper-paranoid and just plain hyper Barris (Robert Downey Jr.) and the more laid-back Luckman (Woody Harrelson) Ã?' that he may have changed teams.
Or not. With Dick, it's always hard to tell where anybody stands. And Linklater has tried to hold on to that fluidity, which must be the reason he went the animation route. Filmed in live-action, then run through some paint-by-numbers software, the movie looks like a graphic novel that has squirmed to life. Shapes are outlined in black, but the actors' faces are entirely recognizable, even capable of subtle effects. (Reeves, alas, isn't, but Downey gives one of his best performances.) Linklater used the same approach in Waking Life, his I-dreamed-I-woke-up grad seminar on such philosophical chestnuts as the free will/determinism debate. But this time there's less experimentation. He really is painting by the numbers.
Still, simply by transforming everything into pixels, he's loosened the movie's grip on reality. And that allows the humor that was also there in Dick's novel to come on through. A Scanner Darkly perhaps works best as a paranoid stoner comedy Ã?' Cheech and Chong for the age of government surveillance. And Downey and Harrelson perform a couple of who's-on-first routines that hark back to "Dave? Dave's not here." But the humor, though welcome, cuts into the paranoia. Dick managed to tickle our funny bones while scaring the bejesus out of us. Linklater seems more mellow. He may not hear those voices in his head, the ones that kept telling Dick not to listen to the voices in his head.