Paramount // 1978 // 85 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // September 10th, 2007
Don't miss the only film where the heroes get wiped out in the first five minutes!
This film is critic proof. Also, it is a love it or hate it movie. Cheech & Chong fans consider this film, the comedy duo's first, a classic. The rest of the population, including myself, is left scratching our heads, wondering what the barely coherent fuss is about. There is no way to bridge this divide.
Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong (Cheech & Chong's Still Smokin') play two stoners looking to score some drugs. Along the way they are chased by narcotics officer Sgt. Stedenko (Stacy Keach, Fat City) and deported to Tijuana, unknowingly drive a van made of marijuana, and play in a punk rock battle of the bands.
I'll keep it short, but not so sweet. The movie revolves around drug use: getting high and trying to get high. That's all there is. There is no story, but there are drugs and "jokes" about drug use. The film lurches from scene to scene with nothing but the two stoners holding it together. This, by itself, is not necessarily fatal to a movie. In the case of a comedy, as long as there are a lot of laughs, the film need not worry too much about weaknesses in plot. However, troubles arise when the laughs are few and far between. Unfortunately, this is exactly the case in Cheech & Chong's Up In Smoke, now out as Cheech & Chong's Up In Smoke: Special Collector's Edition (or the "High-Larious Edition," as it's billed on Amazon.com). It's simply not very funny. The movie is built around rather tame sight gags and one-liners that become more labored and strained as the film progresses. Even at only 85 minutes, it feels long.
Instead of being humorous, the movie is just warped and strange. A woman snorts Ajax cleanser, mistaking it for a different kind of powdered product. How is this supposed to be funny? Stacy Keach gets urinated on by Chong and then, later on, by Cheech. The first time wasn't that funny; why do it twice? I guess they were going for symmetry. A group of nuns appears to enjoy getting frisked by customs agents at the border. At the punk rock concert, Cheech parades around in a pink tutu. These are not high points in comedy.
How about the acting? Cheech and Chong act stoned a lot. Stacy Keach shouts a lot. Nobody involved seems to have particularly good idea about what's going on or what to do.
Overall: Poor script, poor acting, and poor direction. End result: Poor movie.
Let us move on to the "positive."
Despite my feelings about the film, I can't deny that Paramount has gone beyond the call of duty in putting together this "Special Collector's Edition."
Technically the film can't be faulted. The video transfer looks as good as can be for such a low-budget movie. The Dolby audio delivers the dialogue and soundtrack clearly.
More importantly, the DVD is loaded with extras. I didn't enjoy the extras anymore than I did the film; however, like the film, the extras will inform, entertain, and satisfy Cheech & Chong fans. The holdovers from the initial DVD release are a commentary track with Cheech and director Lou Adler, deleted scenes with optional Marin-Adler commentary, and the theatrical trailer. The new extras include a retrospective featurette containing interviews with Marin, Adler, and Chong. They discuss the making-of and "significance" of the film as well as the duo's pre-film comedy act. The other new extras include an animated music video of the film's punk song "Earache My Eye," Cheech & Chong's "The Man Song" (a splicing together of each instance where the word "man" is spoken in the movie), and two vintage radio commercials for the film.
What else could a fan want? I have no idea.
No surprises here. This is a must for Cheech & Chong fans. The rest of us should take a pass.
Marin, Chong, and Adler are guilty. Paramount is free to go for putting together a set of extras far greater than this cult movie deserves.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 1978
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Commentary with Cheech Marin and Director Lou Adler
* Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary
* "Lighting It Up: A Look Back At Up In Smoke"
* "Earache My Eye" Animated Music Video
* Cheech & Chong's "The Man Song"
* 2 Vintage Radio Commercials
* Theatrical Trailer
* DVD Verdict Review of Cheech and Chong's Up In Smoke
* DVD Verdict Review of Cheech and Chong's Still Smokin'