The dopey straight man in the uproarious 1970s stoner duo Cheech and Chong, Tommy Chong went straight to jail in 2004 for selling bongs. Josh Gilbert’s directorial debut chronicles Chong’s lengthy career in show business, but this doc is primarily a polemic against the drug war and a government that would take down one of our favorite funnymen.
Gilbert’s premise is that Chong was arrested not so much for what he did, but who he is. Busted as part of former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s crackdown on drug paraphernalia, Chong, who indeed owned a company called Chong Glass, was the central target of the DEA’s “Operation Pipe Dreams.”
Gilbert follows Chong and his wife Shelby as they go to court, prepare their defense and then ultimately lose the case. He flashes back to Chong’s early years in Vancouver, where Chong met Richard “Cheech” Marin and founded the comedy team that would become an icon of an era. If the film has a weakness it’s that it repeatedly makes the same political points. But, after spending nine months in the pen, Tommy Chong deserves this moment of glory.