Up in Smoke (1978) (R)
Before "Pineapple Express" dominated today's comedy world, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong pretty much solely invented the stoner comedy genre. As you would expect, there's not much here that is terribly 'high-art' here. You won't see this movie winning any Oscars, but then again, why would it want to?
"Up in Smoke" is a very simple movie with very simple gags: try to get as many people high as possible and watch how funny that becomes. I think the highlight of the movie's comedic orchestration is a scene in which two characters fumble around in the back of the car. They scream and shout and everyone else thinks they're having sex, but they're not. It's a kind of contextual joke that is actually the most thought out.
Pedro (Marin) and a rich son turned hitchhiker (Chong) unexpectedly run into each other. They discover a passion for weed and lit up a huge joint before getting so high that the police take them in for questioning. One of the longer running jokes of the man is Chong's character not having a name. One time, when being asked his name, he vomits onto Pedro's lap and the answer is then conveyed to a police officer, "His name is Raaaaaaaalph!"
The villains of the movie are the police officers, who are idiotic, misinformed, and cruel. Twice in the movie the lead characters find ways to urinate on the big bad guy. Curiously enough, this villain doesn't really enter the movie until way past you've realized that the plot doesn't matter and nobody wins. It's kind of like "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" in that you're not really watching for the character development or the intricacies of the plot; but rather for the penis jokes and fart humor.
And it's really not as dumb as all that. In fact some of the larger practical jokes are so ludicrous that it just might as well be a fantasy movie. Thirty minutes into the movie, as Pedro and his companion are looking for more dope, they find themselves involved in a smuggling operation.
Surprisingly enough, Cheech and Chong are very likable protagonists. They don't have a lot of topics to discuss besides women and drugs, and then again, this isn't "Citizen Kane". To be perfectly honest, this is a lot more enjoyable than Orson Wells's classic. It lacks the zany chutzpah of "Airplane!" and it's not exactly as clever as Altman's work, but hey, let it be.
I'm positive that it would be even funnier with a glass of wine, but that's not me condoning any such activity.
Posted by Micah Jones