Genre Spotlight (Secret Santa): Super High Me
Most discussion of documentaries, like that of a historical/period biopic, seems centered more around the subject matter than the movies themselves. A lot of documentary filmmakers have gotten away with building entire careers on this fact – one in particular (whose name I won’t mention) has managed to create and popularize his own subgenre of shrill, “ambush”-style comedy-documentary, which has dominated the industry for over two decades now, based on the fact that people only discuss him in terms of the ideas he sets forth, not on the quality of movie he actually makes (and don’t even get me started on what I think of him as a human being). Me, I enjoy a good documentary as much as the next guy, but much prefer the interview-only or fly on the wall types to the ones with lots of voiceovers, Powerpoints, and “wacky” infographics, all of which I find a bit obvious, reductive and…well, cheesy.
Even with all the exposition and graphics telling me the movie’s (and therefore, the audience’s) point of view on the subject, I’m still not sure what Super High Me is actually about. It has some roundabout things to say about America’s “war on drugs”, government hypocrisy, nonsensical laws and policies and the like, and pays lip service to the complicated political, medical, legal, and moral arguments surrounding marijuana, but in the end it’s mostly about how funny Doug Benson is (or, more specifically, how funny the producers seem to think he is).
Super High Me is structured around a 2 month “experiment” to deprive Benson (“the second funniest stoner comic in America” – that’s about as funny as the movie gets) of pot for 30 days, then having him binge on it for another 30 days. During both periods he is subjected to a battery of tests to gauge his health, intelligence, reaction time, depression levels, etc., and is also put in front of an audience to see whether or not he is funnier on or off the drug. Benson’s comedy, to my ears, doesn’t noticeably improve or worsen whether he’s high or not, nor do his intelligence or memory test results prove much different. His supposed psychic ability, of all things, increases somewhat while on the drug, though not to the extent that the test givers seem particularly concerned about it. Would this movie have taken a different turn had the results of any of these tests skewed hard one way or the other? Doubtful – even with the footage that he did get, director Michael Blieden could already have taken the movie in at least a half-dozen more interesting, more insightful directions. Instead, he stays focused on one thing, and one thing only: comedy. Watch how much Doug Benson suffers as he tries to quit pot! Watch Doug Benson get HIGHER THAN HE’S EVER BEEN!
Unfortunately, Benson is neither very interesting nor particularly funny, which does not bode well for him either as the subject of a documentary or as a comedian. Had his story been just one among the several others that this movie tries to address, it could have worked as a light break between weightier stories, of which there are several. The political wrangling. The struggles of legitimate medical patients. The activism. The battle between shop owners and the local community. The “rogue cops”. The shaky and curious ground that marijuana in several states finds itself: legal at state level yet illegal at the national, often pitting local law enforcement against federal agents. With all of this going on, there is undoubtedly an important story to be told here, and an interesting movie to be made; unfortunately, Super High Me ain’t it.
Posted on December 23, 2011, in Genre Spotlight, Secret Santa and tagged Brian Unger, documentary, Doug Benson, Gary Cohan, Michael Blieden, movie review, patton oswalt, Robert Gore, Sarah Silverman, Super High Me. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.