Judge Victor Valdivia says smoking pot causes short-term memory...uh, hey! It's Cheech and Chong!
"The truth is we broke up because we got rich. And you can't make a rich Mexican do s—-."—Tommy Chong
When Richard "Cheech" Marin and Tommy Chong recorded the 1985 album Get Out of My Room!, no one, including them, though it would be their swan song. Having emerged from the hippie comedy scene in the early '70s, Cheech and Chong became comedy superstars with a string of hit albums and films, a streak that continued when Get Out of My Room!'s first single, "Born in East L.A.," became a hit that year. Tensions between the two, however, had built up over the years and the album would become the last project the two worked on as a team. Though the duo would occasionally appear together on TV shows like South Park and Nash Bridges, they never wrote or created another album, movie, or live show again.
That is, until 2009. After many false starts, some bad blood, and Tommy Chong's nine-month incarceration for selling bongs online back in 2003, Cheech and Chong have reunited for a yearlong concert tour where they perform their biggest comedy hits to enthusiastic audiences, documented here. Opening with a recreation of the scene in their 1978 classic Up in Smoke where Cheech accidentally takes all of Chong's acid and is then pulled over by a cop, the duo include most of their most beloved bits. Cheech performs (actually, lip-syncs) "Earache My Eye," Chong sings as bluesman Blind Melon Chitlin, and the two end the show by leading the audience in a sing-along of the theme to Up in Smoke. Cheech and Chong's Hey Watch This! was filmed in front of a rowdy and enthusiastic audience in San Antonio, Texas, and seeing audience members eagerly shout out words and lyrics to songs and routines they know and love so much just adds to the exhilaration of seeing Cheech and Chong performing together again.
That's not to say that the duo simply rehashes their old bits. There are new references scattered throughout to the Internet, George W. Bush, and hip-hop culture, none of which were household names the last time Cheech and Chong performed onstage together in the mid-eighties. Chong also gets an extended solo monologue where he talks about his arrest and how the reunion came about that's equally funny and revealing. Of course, the duo doesn't look or sound quite the same as they did in their heyday. Cheech no longer has a mustache and he has gained some weight, so he's no longer the scrawny hooligan he was back in the late seventies; for his part, Chong now looks more like a kindly grandfather than a spaced-out stoner. Nonetheless, despite the many years apart, the team works without any rustiness. They really are back and it's about time.
So that's the good news. The less-than-good news centers on Hey Watch This! itself. In hiring director Christian Charles (Jerry Seinfeld: Comedian), Cheech and Chong attempt an experiment that's not entirely successful. Rather than a film of one of their comeback concerts, Hey Watch This! is actually a film in which footage of one of their comeback concerts is frequently interrupted by sketches performed by the duo with Chong's wife Shelby. These sketches are only fitfully amusing (the only really funny ones involve a pair of balcony critics in the same vein as the Muppets' Astor and Waldorf) and they interrupt the flow of the concert, drowning out some of the jokes. It's unclear why exactly Cheech and Chong felt they needed to do this, since the show itself would have been entertaining enough. Perhaps they did this as a supposed incentive for fans to go see the live show but that's not a smart idea, since many fans won't, for whatever reason, be able to see the live shows. It would have been a better idea to make either a straight-ahead concert film or a documentary about the reunion, because this hodgepodge approach isn't as entertaining as it should have been.
It would have been great to get some extras that expand on what Cheech and Chong were thinking when they conceived this idea, but sadly the only extras included are deleted and extended scenes (34:15). The complete and unedited Tommy Chong monologue is worth seeing but the others are not, mainly because they feature an overabundance of Shelby Chong. She remains an attractive and vivacious woman, but her comedic chops are, to put it kindly, not all that impressive. At least the anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer and Dolby 5.1 surround mix are stellar, so crisp and loud that you'll feel like you're actually at the show.
In the end, Hey Watch This! is more of a mixed bag than it should have been. Here is a reunion of one of the most influential and beloved comedy teams of the last few decades, but this DVD doesn't really show it off fully. The sketches that are newly created for the DVD are so apparently hastily written and prepared (as opposed to the actual concert material) that it would have been better to leave them off altogether or spend more time and effort writing and preparing better ones. It's great to see these guys together again, and that goodwill is enough to make this a must for Cheech and Chong fans regardless, but even they will find it somewhat frustrating. Newcomers will just be plain confused. Unless you're already a fan, you'd be better served by watching Up in Smoke instead.
Guilty of poor presentation, but let off with a fine because it's Cheech and Chong.
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