Would you like to have superpowers? Would you still want them if you had to be extremely drunk or stoned to enable them? That’s the predicament that Marcelo “Chelo” Chavez finds himself in the new web series High & Mighty, currently on the film festival circuit. It has already won the “Audience Award – Best Episodic Story” at the 2017 Los Angeles Film Festival and was an Official Selection at the 2017 Urbanwold Festival. From January 23 to 25, several episodes will screen at Sundance.
When I saw the words “high” and “mighty,” I thought someone had remade the 1954 John Wayne movie, The High and the Mighty. No. These characters get high, but not in an airplane.
Stoner Comedy with a Twist
So, is High & Mighty Cheech and Chong meets Spider Man? Kind of, but it’s a lot more. Even funnier than I imagined it would be, it’s also a buddy movie and a rom-com and goes deeper into human relationships than some totally serious films.
Chelo, played by Jorge Diaz (The Long Road Home, Jane the Virgin), tries to give up booze and drugs. His irresponsible behavior has ruined his relationship with Angie, played by Shakira Barrera (Freak Out, Faking It). When they were in high school, Angie was as crazy as Chelo, but she has straightened out her life and has a job. Angie still loves Chelo, but doesn’t know how to help him. Barrera gives a gutsy and passionate performance as a woman running out of options.
To help him find his way, Chello relies on advice from his two best friends and his little sister. Adam Zastrow (Beast Mode, Baskets) plays friend number one, Pat, a hopeless stoner. J.R. Villarreal (Whiteblood, Spare Parts) plays friend two, Hugo, a former gang member who has found Jesus. Chelsea Rendon (A Better Life, McFarland USA) plays Chelo’s smart-mouth sister Luz. The help provided by this trio consists mostly of breaking bricks over Chelo’s head and punching him to confirm his super powers. They’re not much help with his deeper problems, but do provide a lot of laughs while you watch their efforts.
Getting High and Mighty
Production company Stage 13 provided remarks by series writer Cesar Mazariegos and director Carlos Lopez Estrada.
Mazariegos said that when watching superhero movies, he always wondered what would happen if superpowers were granted not to some do-gooder, but to someone who really liked to party. “How does that guy save the world,” he asked, “when he can’t even save himself?”
Estrada said, “I was drawn to this series because the characters it portrays are so far removed from the stereotypes we normally see of Latinos living in America. These people are complex, fascinating and hilarious; and the issues that they face are ones with no easy answer.”
Mazariegos and Estrada have combined their talents and achieved a rare result: creating believable characters in a comic-book-fantasy of a plot. I grew up in and spent about 40 years in and around a predominately Hispanic community in Southern California. As I watched High & Mighty, I felt that I was watching people I had known. Just, none of my friends had super powers.