Sunday, February 9, 2014
My Favorite Era: Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke (1978)
Up in Smoke is essentially plotless for the most part with the two guys hooking up after Chong leaves home and for the most part, they just drive around in Cheech's low rider, getting high and chatting. Eventually they end up smuggling a van made entirely of pot across the Mexican border and participate in a punk rock contest which they win. During this, they are relentlessly pursued by Sgt. Stedenko, a very straight-laced anti drug police officer well played by Stacy Keach.
That's pretty much the entire movie and it's a testament to the abilities of the leads and the supporting cast that they make it as funny as it is. Cheech Marin is always funny and here, his horny stoned guy routine is just funny as hell. Tommy Chong is good too, making his eternal stoner quite likable due to being just goofy as hell. Keach is hilarious, as are the guys playing his fellow officers and Tom Skerritt has a funny role as Cheech's cousin who went nuts in Vietnam and sells pot.
Cheech and Chong made several more movies after this but none really hit the highs (no pun intended) of this one. The characters are likable and funny, the many bizarre predicaments they get into are generally pretty well staged and the natural chemistry they had as a stage act translates quite well to film. It's not a perfect movie, but it's a damn funny, low admittedly lowbrow one, regardless of your stance on drugs.