Friday, July 15, 2016

Up in Smoke

Year 8, Day 197 - 7/15/16 - Movie #2,397

BEFORE: Ok, so the possessive dilemma is back tonight - what is the title of this film?  IMDB just lists it as "Up in Smoke", but it's on that list of 1,001 Movies to See Before You Die as "Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke".  The poster is no help, nor is the title in the opening credits of the film, because they both include the names of the film's two stars, which according to the IMDB, is NOT part of the title.  I'm siding with the IMDB, because I choose to, and I hate including the possessives.  

My linking tonight is tenuous, since "The Cocoanuts" was a linking dead-end.  Adding another Marx Brothers film would not have helped - but an indirect link here has always been part of my plan.  So Groucho Marx was also in the short film "Showdown at Ulcer Gulch", along with Edie Adams, who appears in "Up in Smoke".  
Also part of my plan WAS (past tense) watching a few of these Cheech & Chong films online, because I only had two in my collection, but wouldn't you know it, just a couple of weeks ago, one cable channel decided to run two more of their films, which was very nice of them.  I'm always happy when I leave a slot open for a film, and then cable helps me out by running the film shortly before that.  It makes me feel like there's divine providence in my system, or I'm some kind of psychic when it comes to cable programming.  So now I've got four slots left before the next century mark, and also four Cheech & Chong films to watch.  I think I'll skip the missing two, there's probably no need to be a completist here. 

THE PLOT:  Two stoners unknowingly smuggle a van - made entirely of marijuana - from Mexico to L.A., with incompetent Sgt. Stedenko on their trail.

AFTER: In a way, this is just another natural progression - I covered the films of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis last month, and that (indirectly) led into Abbott & Costello, which led into the Marx Brothers.  But this is a comedy team that I have no familiarity with - I've never seen a Cheech & Chong film before, and I grew up during the 1980's!  I was very familiar with some of their routines, which were played on the Dr. Demento radio show, along with Weird Al Yankovic songs, Monty Python routines, Steve Martin songs, etc.  But not the movies.  

Maybe it's just that I'm not part of the stoner scene - my drugs of choice are caffeine to perk up and beer to come down, so getting stoned seems like going sideways off my routine.  I was really into vodka for a while in college, and I'll still drink screwdrivers if there's an open bar at a wedding, but mostly for me, it's beer.  Oh, and my own concoction after a tough workday, which I call "Purple Drank" - that's raspberry rum, ginger ale and some grape juice for color and sweetness - not too much, it's got to be about 50% ginger ale.  I limit myself to two, because they're so drinkable and delicious...

I tried pot a few times during college, but it didn't really do anything for me.  But since I'm heading to California next week, where weed is (semi-)legal, hey, you never know.  A couple of years ago, we got Comic-Con badges for my boss's cousins, and they brought us some goodies from their farm.  As far as I knew, it was a walnut farm, but apparently they're growing a few other things there as well.  Plus they gave us a big bottle of rum, which I'm quite sure is not something you're supposed to have at your Comic-Con booth, and I did not partake, for my own reasons.  The next morning, my boss called from Oregon to tell me that the rum was definitely full of wacky tobaccy, because it kicked in for him when he was on the plane leaving San Diego.  Umm, congratulations?   Maybe if I find myself in one of those states where they sell pot legally in those brownies or chocolate bars, I'd give it a try under controlled conditions.  

So I'm not really in the target audience for this film - still, I'm willing to give it a goThanks to the context of Jerry Lewis and Lou Costello, I know that Tommy Chong isn't really as dumb as his stoner character appears to be.  You have to be smart to play stupid and be funny, right?  What I don't really get is how the film expected to get the different kinds of "stoned" to come across on camera.  We in the audience can't really feel what they're feeling, not unless someone's smoking in the theater or our living room.  Maybe that's it, the film's designed to be interactive, you really need to be playing along at home to get the full effect of the film.  I'm sure there's a "drinking game" version where you can play along, you just need a ton of grass, some uppers, some acid, and some coke (note: do not really use Ajax cleanser, like the girl in the film...) and finally, some hash.  I never really understood the difference between "hash" and "grass", are they the same thing?  That's how dumb I am about this...

Most of the comedy here, once Cheech picks up Chong hitchhiking, and they bond over a joint, concerns the trouble that the pair subsequently gets into while driving stoned.  Often this is just different variations on being pulled over, but I admit it's somewhat original for them to be driving a van across the Mexican border, when the WHOLE VAN is made of pot.  Ironic humor therefore follows, as they drive around looking for marijuana, ignorant of the fact that they're surrounded by it. 

Finally, they manage to win a "Battle of the Bands" with a little help from their burning van, which is parked near the club vents.  I guess that's all it takes to make their band sound amazing to the audience?  Still, it feels like cheating.  But isn't it a huge NITPICK POINT that the narcotics officers don't notice the smell of pot from the burning van, at least, not until they're stoned?  Geez, if one person lights a joint anywhere on my office building's floor, I know about it well before I get even a contact high.  Aren't these guys trained to recognize the smell or something?  

Also starring Cheech Marin (last heard in "The Book of Life"), Tommy Chong (last heard in "Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil"), Stacy Keach (last seen in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For"), Strother Martin (last seen in "The Champ"), Tom Skerritt (last seen in "Harold and Maude"), Mills Watson, Zane Buzby (last seen in "Oh, God!"), Wally Ann Wharton, Louisa Moritz, June Fairchild, Christopher Joy, with a cameo from Ellen Barkin (last seen in "Someone Like You")

RATING: 5 out of 10 INS agents

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