Wednesday, May 24, 2017

CHEECH AND CHONG'S NEXT MOVIE (1980) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Shout! Factory/Shout Select 

Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 95 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Tommy Chong
Cast: Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Cassandra Peterson, Edie McClurg, Phil Hartman, John Paragon, Paul Reubens 

The Cheech and Chong movies were my introduction to the joys of r-rated stoner comedy and irreverent humor, I clearly remember marathoning the first three films on VHS when I was just a kid, it was on a sleepover at the Woodard's house, friends of the family, whose kids were around my age even if we were not close. It was a memorable night, one that culminated with one of my first deep adolescent make-out session, a weird and wonderful night with occasional breaks in the fumbling make-out session as the pretty young lady would make me cookies in her Easy Bake oven, we were that young! Needless to stay that night has stuck with me for decades, for various reasons, but I walked away from it with a love for the movies of Cheech and Chong and a series of awkward post make-out middle school encounters with the young lady, it turned out that it would be a one-night only romance, and apparently one that weirded us both out, as we spoke very little for the next seven years of school, right up till our graduation, and sadly she died not long after that in a car accident.

Anyway, 'nuff about my doomed adolescent romance, the sequel to Up In Smoke (1978) opens with our stoner-duo, low-rider dude Cheech and and his more laid back stoner friend Chong, illegally siphoning gas for their "borrowed" car, getting high while debating the merits of their current employment situations before blowing themselves up in a ball of fire, something having to do with gas fumes and lighting a joint I guess. From there the movie plays out as a series of humorous vignettes/sketches about the lovable losers as they set about creating their own brand of acid-rock and going to the unemployment office for a government handouts, a fun scene that culminates with Chong doing the nasty with a foxy girlfriend Donna (Evelyn Guerrero, The Toolbox Murders) on the floor of her office and an encounter with the "Man of 10,000 Sound Effects" Michael Winslow (from the Police Academy films), in his first on-screen role if my memory serves. 

The movie has very little plot other than the L.A. weed-heads looking to score weed and poontang, the pair are sort of separated for a large portion of the movie as Cheech kicks Chong out of their rundown house so he can score with Donna, sending Chong to pick-up his far out cousin Red (Marin in a dual role) while Cheech stays at home cleaning-up, ironing clothes, drinking tequila and eventually falling asleep, having a series of surreal doped-up dreams, including some strange Aztec necrophilia! Meanwhile Chong and yahoo Red embark on a series of wild L.A. adventures, beginning with Red being kicked-out of his hotel, with the obnoxious desk clerk (Paul Reubens, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure) holding his belongings for ransom until Red can pay for his room. When Chong learns that one of his duffel bags contains 20 pounds of primo homegrown weed the two plot to get it back, and once they do they embark on another series of scattershot L.A. adventures, heading to a brothel before being kicked out, hanging with one of the whores named Candy (Betty Kennedy) at a music shop where they jam out, then hooking up with a hip richie-rich woman named Gloria (Cheech's wife Rikki Marin, Nice Dreams), who takes the trio home to her parents sprawling mansion. Gloria's mother is played by the always shrill and funny Edie McClurg (Ferris Bueller's Day Off), and her father (Sy Kramer) just happens to be one of Candy's best clients at the whorehouse, with a penchant for tying her up, the horrifying encounter making him squirm in his seat over dinner.

Eventually all five end up in the families Rolls Royce smoking and giant-sized joint and headed for a comedy club where they once again encounter an angry Pee-wee Herman, ruining his set by taking it over, and causing him to be thrown out by a huge female bouncer (Faith Minton, The Wanderers). The episodic mess of a film ends with Red and Chong on the run from the law in a Ferrari, headed to his fabled field of week, ending with an alien abduction, yup, you heard me right, it goes there, but it doesn't end there. The aliens are super cool and give the pair a bag of "space coke", which Chong takes back to Cheech, literally sending the pair through the roof. 

The movie starts off strong, like the predecessor the narrative is loose, Cheech and Chong are hilarious, but the introduction of Red is when it begins to lose some steam in my opinion, he's just not that interesting of a character to watch, it feels padded, and I would have rather has our leads together on this adventure, it a bad idea and the movie suffers for it. I still like it but it's a step down from Up In Smoke, but still funny, just more flawed and padded. 

Audio/Video: The 70's stoner comedy classic arrives on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory as part of their Shout Select line, I don't think this is a new transfer from Shout!, but probably an HD master straight from Universal. The image is fairly crisp and pleasing, while there's not a lot of depth the grain is nicely managed and there's some decent fine detail. The English DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio exports the stoner jams, dialogue and Mark Davis (The Night Before) score nicely, also featuring songs great tunes from The Pretenders, Jimmy Reed, The Champs and Ray Charles among others, it has a great soundtrack, plus some Cheech and Chong originals like "Mexican American" and "Beaner". Optional English subtitles are included. 

For those curious, this version does not contain any of the legendary TV version footage, known as the "diamond" cut, containing additional scenes not included on the theatrical release, which if memory serves included an animated intro and scenes of them boarding the alien ship at the end. However, this is the original theatrical release with the original music score and dialogue intact, which had been altered on some previous home video releases. While I know fans were clamoring for the TV edit of this to be included I do commend Shout for rectifying the altered dialogue and music and staying true to the original theatrical version. 

Onto the extras we have the theatrical trailer, five minutes of radio spots and a brand new 19-min interview with Cheech Marin who speaks about the making of the movie, the influence of the L.A. characters they observed on the streets, the difference between making comedy albums and the movies, working with the Groundlings crew, how in real life that he and Chong were both very disciplined, health conscious and reserved. It's a good listen, would have loved a commentary or some input from writer/director/actor Tommy Chong, but what we do get is good. The release comes housed in a standard blue keepcase, with a sleeve of reversible artwork, both significant improvements over the awful 2003 DVD artwork from Universal.   

Special Features: 

- NEW Interview With Cheech Marin (19 min) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (3 min) 
- Radio Spots (5 min

The movie is totally disjointed, directed by Tommy Chong himself, the movie doesn't have a lot of visual flair or style, but the comedy is strong and it always makes me laugh, a lot. Marin and Chong were pioneers of irreverent stoner comedy, both on LP and on film, and while the movie narrative is disjointed as Hell it still works for me on the whole, this is a fun, crude stoner jam. 3/5