Don Peyote is about one man’s psychedelic obsession, fueled by drug-influenced apocalyptic dreams and trippy interviews with conspiracy theorists – in other words, I wasn’t nearly high enough while watching this mishmash of ideas and horrors. Seriously, I’ve never felt more mindf#cked after credits rolled than I did trying to assemble what little coherence existed while telling the story of legendary peacemaker Don Peyote. As it stands, Dan Fogler has created a stoner road trip comedy that meanders scene to scene, parading an impressive amount of celebrity cameos through a hazy mist created by every drug cocktail known to man. Don Peyote feels like a scholarly acid trip mixed with every paranoid druggie’s worst nightmare, but plays like a story your local weed dealer stumbles through helplessly while you try and force him out of your house.
Warren (Dan Fogler) has it all, yet simultaneously has nothing. Being an unemployed graphic artist has its perks, as Warren spends his days getting high via apple bongs, but after a night of serious mind-melting, he starts to obsess over 2012 doomsday predictions already invading his nightmares. Abandoning all responsibilities, Warren starts making a documentary about what could be Earth’s demise, struggling to balance his life’s work with engagement plans. Spiraling into an obsessive insanity, Warren starts to encounter stranger and stranger people while keeping a constant high to stay, um, focused. Will Warren’s new project ruin the life he’s built for himself, or will the documentary make him a household name?
OK, let me attempt the daunting task of dissecting this wondrous odyssey, filled with ambition, intrigue, and grandiose ideas hinging on our immersion into the obscure. The story is really rather simple when generalized, as we follow Warren’s transformation from a seemingly normal guy into a apocalypse warning street urchin. We’ve all seen the homeless wanderers carrying “The End Is Nigh” signs and yelling warnings your way during work commutes, but Don Peyote attempts to explain how said characters end up living a hobo’s lifestyle. New Yorkers never ponder where these kooks developed their “insanity” (for lack of a better term), and Dan Fogler’s character Warren actually does humanize a whole class of people we interact with daily yet pay no mind. This is the most thought provoking message found in Don Peyote, but this is where everything goes purely bonkers – yes, even after discussing a nomad named Don Peyote.
Between Dan Fogler breaking the 4th wall, Anne Hathaway showing up as an all knowing female assassin, copious amounts of weed-induced visions, and a slew of vision quests, Don Peyote goes a bit up in smoke. Fogler creates the kind of story that takes leaps and bounds between scenes, not easily digestible baby steps. One minute Warren is filming an interview with his best buddy’s weed dealer, played by Jay Baruchel, and the next he’s walking in on a masquerade orgy involving his fiance – or so his distorted perceptions suggest. Warren’s downward spiral is always progressing, narrated by Fogler himself, but the crazier Warren seems, the more convoluted this tall-tale becomes. There’s an inherently Coen brothers vibe found in Fogler’s work, abandoning explanation for musical numbers and visual gags, but all this calculated insanity permits nothing but head scratching and wishy-washy assumptions.
The most interesting part has to be Fogler’s obvious planning, because as I mentioned, everything is absolutely calculated. Look at Warren’s best friend, aptly named Balance. As Fogler’s narration suggests, “Balance” is never there when you need him, as his accompaniment might have subdued Warren’s massively intoxicated state that spurred all the end of the world documentary talk. Balance comes and goes as he sees fit, helping in calmer moments yet vanishing when Warren needs him most. Balance – something that could have saved Warren, yet he’s completely unpredictable, leaving Warren open to an unhealthy obsession. That’s what disappointed me the most – there’s plenty of weighty material about life, death, peace, love, and all that other hippie mumbo-jumbo, but not enough coherency for a smooth ride. Don Peyote is established exactly as a highly “elevated” mind would envision such a journey, and we all know how hard it is to understand some high material when stuck in sobriety.
Dan Fogler shows such a dedication to physical comedy and emotional interaction, gleefully unwinding at the seams for our enjoyment, but there are entirely too many befuddling moments for Don Peyote to sincerely be the next stoner cult classic. Playing a bit like a jumbled Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas without the proper bite, Fogler’s genius is a little bit too frantic for audiences to embrace. Some pretty damn funny moments permeate random scenes involving underwater playfulness, costumed furries, apocalyptic visions, and mental asylum mayhem, but unfortunately Don Peyote might be a little too far out for some, man.
Don Peyote is a delusional, hallucinogenic journey into the mind of an apocalypse obsessed lunatic - a jumbled puzzle of ideas missing a few crucial connections.