Release Date: June 14th, 2006 (Film Forum)
Directed by Josh Gilbert.
BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about Tommy Chong, a comedian who served 9 months in federal jail for selling bongs during a government sting operation in 2003.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: A/k/a Tommy Chong will certainly entertain Tommy Chong fans who grew up in the “Cheech and Chong” craze during the 1970’s and 80’s. Since then, Chong has a loving wife, Shelby, and a grown-up son named Paris. He admits that he hasn’t really changed that much since the Cheech and Chong era of pot-smoking jokes, but Cheech, on the other hand, lost much of his goofy energy. In the early hours of one morning in 2003, the DEA literally storms into Chong’s family business which sold bongs to a man in Pennsylvania where selling drug paraphernalia is illegal. Fortunately, Chong’s maintains much of his sense of humor during this entire ordeal. He pokes fun at the exaggeration of the government during its War on Terror; the only weapons of mass destruction the government found were in his factory, he jokes. Shelby also jokes that when the DEA found a pound of cocaine, it may sound like a lot, but not for coke addicts. It’s like storing a pound of sugar, which is a normal quantity. For all those loyal fans who love Chong’s brand of drug-related humor, they will get a kick out of this documentary—especially watching hilarious clips from Up in Smoke and other Cheech and Chong films. Throughout the film, director Josh Gilbert includes lively interviews with Chong as well as Peter Coyote, Lou Adler, and Jay Leno. Gilbert also provides some well-needed, informative biographical information that helps to humanize him to some degree while, concurrently, keeping him just as off-beat, strangely charismatic and crazy as his fans want him to be.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Without being too preachy, Chong simply states that he feels sorry for all those who get prosecuted by the federal government because there aren’t any truly impartial judges who fairly and justly decide their fate. Compared to the other 55 people arrested during the sting, he served the most jail-time. Moreover, the government seemingly targeted Tommy Chong just based on their image of him from the Cheech and Chong movies—as if they took his films too seriously without understanding the satirical element. It would have been more balanced to hear interviews from government agents about this matter, but, in reality, what are the chances that these “adults” would maturely and honestly admit to being prejudice and unfair? Then again, some things go without saying.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
IN A NUTSHELL: Hilarious, lively and fascinating! A must-see for all fans of Cheech & Chong!
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
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