By: Addison Wylie
Comedian/marijuana enthusiast Doug Benson has made it his mission to provide stoner versions of documentaries directed by Morgan Spurlock. He started with Super High Me (a half-baked spin on Super Size Me) and continued with The Greatest Movie Ever Rolled (a take off on The Greatest Movie Ever Sold). Benson checks off another title with Chronic-Con Episode 420: A New Dope, which isn’t just an obvious jab at Spurlock’s Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, but also acts as admission for the comedian to kid around at San Diego’s big ticket entertainment convention.
Doug Benson has the ability to be very funny. Most importantly, Doug knows why his stoner schtick works. He has the ability to call it like it is despite having judgement clouded by cannabis smoke. When the comedian adapts his routine for movies, complications arise when filmmakers can’t jive with Benson’s moves. That’s what I believe has happened with this aimless documentary.
Director Ryan Polito can roll with Doug (no pun intended) and can shadow the comedian during his unpredictable day in San Diego, but I don’t think the filmmaker understands what makes Doug entertaining. Polito proposes it’s amusing to only see Doug get high and grimace. Polito and producer Sharon Everitt are all about providing visuals for the marijuana subculture watching their movie, but little do they know they’re missing the point. They’re not interested if the comedian is gaining kinetic momentum using his wry sense of humour to make observations about cosplay crowds, and the paranoia of smoking cautiously. The team will tune out until Benson has another joint in his hand. Some strung-out transitional bits and 8-bit titles commenting on Doug’s stoned status act as awkward evidence.
I never saw The Greatest Movie Ever Rolled, but Super Size Me – while anticlimactic – worked because Benson had a thesis. The sparingly funny Chronic-Con – which is always looking for purpose – doesn’t have much for the comedian to latch onto. Doug sets two goals for the documentary: to track down Morgan Spurlock and to smoke weed with a superhero. While these may have served as bare-bones for a loose story, Chronic-Con often forgoes them. When there’s a lull in the film, the goals are clumsily recovered. Benson, all of a sudden, bellows “SPURLOCK” amidst waves of costumed folk, while the search for a toking crime-fighter is saved for a slapdash – yet amusing – finale.
Polito and Everitt may not be completely oblivious to what movie goers want. Chronic-Con Episode 420: A New Dope is largely built on Benson’s performances (either his stand-up comedy or his popular podcast Doug Loves Movies), which works as a failsafe solution for the filmmaking team. If Benson’s fanbase happens to be disappointed by this wasted effort, they can at least get laughs from watching Benson in his natural environment and joking around with fellow comedians (Scott Aukerman, Brian Posehn, Kulap Vilaysack, Ari Shaffir, Brian Redband, and Joe Rogan).
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