It’s difficult to imagine anyone describing Doug Benson as “visionary” – at least outside of a college dorm room or Widespread Panic concert. But here he is, a 48-year-old comedian presiding over the most ubiquitously legal pot culture in history. Benson’s stoner renown was sealed years ago, but with fully legal weed (at the state level, anyway) taking root in Colorado and Washington, and more than a dozen states with medical marijuana laws, Benson is on the burning edge of a national trend.
Maybe this is the reason for The Greatest Movie Ever Rolled. Maybe not. It’s difficult to tell from the movie itself, which is (as the credits inform us) based on one of Benson’s jokes. Just as his 2007 documentary Super High Me was a take-off of Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, The Greatest Movie… is inspired by Spurlock’s The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. The premise? It’s a video diary of a comedy tour that was booked in order to fund the movie about that same tour. If that sounds confusing, don’t worry. It’s not so much a figure-eight of logic as a lazily drawn oval.
If ever there was any doubt that Benson is constantly and incredibly stoned, The Greatest Movie… is here to stamp out that ember. From pills and joints to apples and bongs, this road flick shows Benson casually ingesting massive amounts of marijuana while touring the Midwest with agreeable podcast buddy and comic Graham Elwood, who plays the healthy-guy foil to Benson’s wanton indulgence. Brief cameos by Greg Proops and T.J. Miller are tacked onto the end, but overall this is Benson and Elwood’s movie.
Ryan Polito, who has directed dozens of stand-up specials, makes the most of what must have been countless hours of so-so material, punching up stretches of Benson and Elwood in cars and hotel rooms with chunks of onstage footage and the occasional prank. It wouldn’t be a proper road movie without that blur of airports, chain hotels and weary inside jokes. But between Ann Arbor, Chicago, Omaha and other cities, tedium begins to creep into frame.
Unlike the premise-heavy Super High Me, the roughly chronological events here unfold without urgency or purpose, splitting the difference between travel diary and performance collage. It’s neither as intimate (or harsh) as David Cross’s Let America Laugh nor as snappy as the original Comedians of Comedy. But if you’re worried that Benson’s sold-out shows are going to his head, you’ll at least be encouraged to see him spontaneously visit a Peoria strip club with a dozen-plus stoned audience members.
Benson’s goofy, half-lidded delivery has made him an easy target for detractors, but he’s truly earned his fan base over the years, whether it’s on stage or in his podcasts. The Greatest Movie… doesn’t shed much light on why this is, but it does reinforce an off-hand comment from a limo driver at the beginning of the movie: “You can’t be funny all the time.”