Paramount // 1983 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // November 28th, 2000
You can always smell the excitement in the air.
It's not excitement you can smell in the air, it's the offal that emanates from this stinker of a movie. This description is especially apt considering the number of poo-poo jokes contained in this, the fourth entry in the Cheech and Chong film library. Basically a series of skits framed around a trip to Amsterdam, a few get a laugh but most were painful to watch. This is coming from a huge fan of their records and their much better first film Up In Smoke. If I didn't like it, I don't know who will.
Cheech and Chong, that comedy duo specializing in drug humor, play themselves as guests to the Amsterdam Film Festival. Once they arrive they find out nobody there knows who they are, and often mistake Cheech for Burt Reynolds, the celebrity guest they've been waiting for. As the pair explore Amsterdam with its liberal attitude about marijuana and sex, ample opportunities exist for them to find both, but often they are merely daydreaming about skits they will perform in a live show at the festival. Finally they do some of their nightclub routines and characters on stage.
This isn't the worst film I ever saw. I've seen much worse. But a comedy needs to have more of its jokes work than not, and the reverse was true here. Still, some of the skits and routines were good for a laugh. Fans of the old records (those were done on vinyl back in the Cretaceous period) will recognize and probably laugh at their routine where they play Herbie and Ralph, a pair of dogs on the make. There were other skits and characters that didn't stink; I sort of liked the wrestling match against the invisible man. As a hetero male I also appreciated the ample number of scenes with bare breasted Dutch women.
That is perhaps the shortest defense of a film I've ever delivered. But the film is almost nothing but a series of skits, and only a few of them worked. Many did not. Skits with characters that didn't really deliver went on too long, only to be followed by more of the same. As I said, some of them were painful to watch in their awkwardness.
This film could have been so much more. I've heard many of their stage routines and their comedy records, and they have much better material than this. I even considered that maybe my memory was clouded by the prodigious amounts of extra-legal substances that usually went along with listening to them way back when. Now that I'm no longer using or abusing these substances, perhaps my sense of humor had changed. But I just finished watching Up In Smoke which was released at the same time, and laughed through the whole film. So I don't believe that is the case. One big lack I found was that not nearly enough was done with Cheech and Chong's best topic; namely smoking dope. Despite the title and the fact that they were in Amsterdam where people can buy and smoke it legally, much of the comedy and jokes were the sort of thing you might see in any local club by the second tier talent. Too many disguises and characters that didn't have anything to do with drugs took them off their game. Perhaps the best joke in the movie was one of the few times they did get high, and you saw things from the perspective of the drugged out Cheech.
Paramount made a half-hearted effort with the DVD for this half-hearted film, especially compared to the much better work done on Up In Smoke. The transfer, while anamorphic, is rather soft in the level of detail. Most colors look fine and are well saturated, but blacks and shadow detail were lacking. There were few film defects and there were few to no artifacts, but I still wasn't impressed. It's still very watchable (if you can call the film itself "watchable") but not up to the standards I've seen even on their older films. The audio track is Dolby Digital mono and is serviceable. As a basic comedy the sound is mostly front loaded anyway, so no great lacks, especially since the musical score was basic '80s synthesizer fare. To add insult to injury, the only extra feature is the trailer, compared to a commentary track and deleted scenes on the Up In Smoke disc.
A poor movie and a barely marginal disc does not make for a purchase recommendation, especially at a $29.95 price point. Save your money and buy the Up In Smoke disc instead. You'll be glad you did. People who don't appreciate drug humor or Cheech and Chong shouldn't buy either one, but if you fall into that category why are you still reading?
Cheech and Chong remain high in my estimation and respect (pun intended). Paramount gets a big slap on the wrist for a less than stellar transfer and almost no extras at a high price. The court adjourns to a new venue in Amsterdam to "investigate" the scene of the crime.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1983
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer