Director Josh Gilbert’s documentary a/k/a Tommy Chong focuses on the legendary comedian’s imprisonment for selling drug paraphernalia over the internet. Famous for his classic film, “Up in Smoke” with his comedic partner Cheech Marin, whom he met in the late 1960’s, Chong (of mixed heritage- Chinese father and Canadian mother) grew up in a very conservative neighborhood in Alberta, Canada where being biracial was a stigma.

The documentary discusses the U.S. Justice Department’s massive 12 million dollar sting operation on drugs called, “Operation Pipe Dreams”. The multimillion dollar strongarm was spearheaded by U.S Attorney General John Ashcroft and Mary Beth Buchanan. As a prime target of this operation, Chong’s family business- Nice Dreams Enterprises, was stormed by SWAT in an effort to bring Chong to justice along with others.

Some may argue that zeroing in on Chong was a major coup in its ultimate agenda. Chong being known to many fans as a dope smoking hippie from his cult classic films, was an icon, an icon which symbolized rampant marijuana use. To stomp down hard on this symbol and make an example of Chong was what the documentary points to ideally.

Chong jokes in his stand up acts about the arrest and the nine month sentence in 2003 at a minimum security prison, but the Justice Department was not laughing when he mentioned that the bongs confiscated were the only “Weapons of Mass Destruction” the Bush administration found.

The documentary is average at best, sometimes disconnected and momentarily uplifting by discourse of Chong’s past and moving revelations during his sentence. In the end, Chong makes his return, enlightened, changed and resilient as ever.

Weak: 1 Star   Average: 2 Stars   Good: 3 Stars   Very Good: 4 Stars   Excellent: 5 Stars


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Tobe R. Roberts

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