Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cheech & Chong's The Corsican Brothers

Year 8, Day199 - 7/17/16 - Movie #2,399

BEFORE: Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong carry over again from "Nice Dreams", and tonight I'm forced to include the possessive in the title, not only because the IMDB considers their names to be part of the title, but also to distinguish this film from any other version of "The Corsican Brothers", which was a famous story by Alexandre Dumas, although I'm guessing a version like this is probably far off from what he intended.  

And I'm cleverly placing this one JUST before hitting a century mark, because even if this film is so terrible that it turns me off from movies completely, or enables some sense of soul-crushing ennui, I'll still be motivated to soldier on, if only to reach movie #2,400.  Movie Year 2016 is just about 2/3 over, and when I get back from my Comic-Con break, I'll try to figure out the chain that will get me to the end of the year, or at least to Halloween.  

THE PLOT:  Two brothers who can feel each others' pain and pleasure mess up the French revolution.

AFTER: What happens when a comedy team has mined everything they possibly can from their schtick?  Sometimes, they have to find a new schtick, and sometimes that works, and sometimes it falls flat.  The Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello, Martin and Lewis - they all had their places in cinematic history, and at some point it's just the same old routines, in new situations.  What if we took the same characters, but had them running amok in a department store?  What if we sent our comic heroes to a Mideast country, or down to Mexico?  What if they got drafted into the army, or served in the navy, or took up golf?  What if Ernest went to camp, then jail, then saved Christmas?  It seems the easiest way to keep a set of characters going is to just change their location.  

But Cheech & Chong took a left turn in their careers and appeared in a period piece, a sort of swashbuckling French Revolution story that was nearly tantamount to career suicide, the only other equally misguided cinematic choice that I can think of would be that film where Jerry Lewis played the clown in the concentration camp.  At some point you have to stop and think, "Is this really what the audience wants to see?"  

I'll wrap up my Cheech & Chong chain tomorrow, and then I'll speak about the inconsistencies in the other films (the L.A. "stoner" genre), but tonight let's just focus on the parts of THIS movie that don't make any sense - beyond, you know, choosing to make this film in the first place.  There's a framing sequence that shows the modern-day Cheeck & Chong performing rock music on the streets of Paris, finding that they make more money when people pay them NOT to play.  OK, that's a little funny.  But why is the band now called "Los Guys"?  What happened to the name "Alice Bowie"?  Did they get a call from somebody's lawyer?    

Their stack of money attracts a fortune-teller in a cafe, who tells them they both have "the mark" and proceeds to relate the story of the Corsican Brothers to them - but does this suggest that they're descendants of Louis and Lucian?  Or somehow they have their reincarnated souls, or what?  We'll never know, because we never see the mystic relating the end of the tale - by the end of the story, it's being narrated by a man, not a woman, and the two framing sequences don't match up at all.  Why, it's almost like the writer and director couldn't focus, as if their minds were clouded by some kind of foreign substance or something.  

Which is kind of weird, since Tommy Chong doesn't sound like himself for most of the film, or at least he doesn't sound like the well-intentioned but dumb stoner who the fans had come to appreciate.  In fact he plays the SMARTER of the two Corsican Brothers, the one who's more into the Revolution cause, the one who's always got a plan to take down the aristocracy, or escape from the prison.  (Yeah, just like "Lost in a Harem", the main characters get thrown in prison a lot here, but the place practically has a revolving door exit by the end of the film.)  

It's at this point where I have to do a little research on the novel "The Corsican Brothers", to find where this film deviated (umm, nearly everywhere...) and what, if anything, was kept from the original story.  The novel is NOT set during the French Revolution, at least not during the big one, it was set in 1841.  And the brothers were originally conjoined, which explains their ability to sense each other's feelings (wait, is that a thing?) however, this is exaggerated here for (allegedly) comic effect, with each brother figuring out at a young age that when he hits the other, he feels the pain himself.  You would think that even a kid would figure out pretty quickly to NOT injure his brother, that whole pain/reward complex is pretty powerful.  But nope, even as adults, the Corsican Brothers here have to re-learn that simple strategy, over and over (and over...) again.  

There's a point of order here - if Louis gets punched and Lucian feels it, it doesn't automatically follow that Louis DOESN'T feel it.  He should feel the pain too, right?  Having empathy with someone else doesn't take away the negative feeling from the other person, it should just be shared, not transferred.  What you get then is people who are nearly invulnerable, they can be punched, burned, stabbed, and the pain is just not felt by them, just shunted somewhere else.  I don't think this is what the original author had in mind.  

Unless I'm wrong, the whole point is to have two brothers, separated near birth, who both feel as if something in their lives is missing, and each experiences strange emotions at random times, which lead them to seek each other out as explanation for this effect.  But this film throws all that out the window, and we don't see either brother experiencing anything during their 29 years apart, which is what could have been truly interesting.  Instead we only see them when they get back together, and they have to re-learn this shared emotion thing, even though they knew it before as kids, and forgot it?  

I will count it as a NITPICK POINT that Lucien considers his revolution a success, yet at the end of the film, the Queen is still in power.  How is that considered a successful takedown of the aristocracy?

Do I even have to mention that the boys are born looking like adults, with full facial hair?  I mean, that's an indication that we're not supposed to take any of this seriously, but then if not, what's the point?  I think it's much easier to believe that two guys who enjoyed some success in Hollywood, against all rational thought and expectations, got a movie studio to pay for a period piece, enabling them to take their entire families on a month-long holiday to France, provided they make a film while they were there. What other possible explanation could there be?

Also starring Roy Dotrice (last seen in "Swimming With Sharks"), Edie McClurg (last seen in "She's Having a Baby"), Shelby Chong (also carrying over from "Nice Dreams"), Rikki Marin, Rae Dawn Chong (last seen in "Commando"), Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Kay Dotrice, Martin Pepper.

RATING: 3 out of 10 guillotines

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