Thursday, February 5, 2015

Still Smokin - 1983

"Still Smokin" - 1983
Dir. by Thomas Chong - 1 hr. 31 min.

Original Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

It's not often that you see a film that's essentially a b-sides collection (in my estimation).  Also, to be fair, it's not often that a comedy duo makes as many films (and largely sketch comedy-based ones) as Cheech and Chong did.  Since plot was never the point of any of their work, and they were able to get away with even less plot than other, "Still Smokin" makes sense.  Going through the structure of the film, I'm not entirely sure how it was cobbled together; it could literally be anything from a literal b-sides movie of discarded bits filmed at other times to just the laziest assembly of material ever (seriously, random bits and half a live performance?  That's vault-raiding on a Hendrixian scale).  But the shaggy form of the film makes sense, considering the source, and there's some decent material within.

Cheech (Marin) and Chong (, Tommy) head to Amsterdam to do something, although it's unclear what.  They claim not to have worked in six years, and at the Amsterdam airport, Cheech is mistaken for Burt Reynolds (mustache); Burt and Dolly Parton are supposed to be on their flight, arriving to promote a movie.  Instead, Cheech and Chong hijack the publicity train (and its benefits, like a fancy hotel), and offer to do a show there to help out somebody.  This is the skeleton that the random skits hang on; the duo recall bits they want to dust off, we see them, and then ultimately, the last half of the movie is from a live performance in Amsterdam.

I'm not even going to start to pretend that this film is for everyone, even if you're into Cheech and Chong (or just their lifestyle).  They didn't invent the sketch comedy movie, and their best work doesn't even really fall into that category ("Up In Smoke" is definitely their best, but it's more like an overtly stoner version of "Slacker" than an overtly stoner version of "The Kentucky Fried Movie").  This form is something that they kind of fell into, which makes sense, since they were stage performers more than filmmakers.  So the real question is, once you get past the question of whether or not you enjoy this sort of thing, is about the strength of the material.

The answer: uneven.  The footage from a live performance is generally a lot better than the other skits, but the skits have some highlights (like the insatiable maid, or the telethon where a green-wigged Chong wants to raise money to buy tanks and anti-aircraft missiles to defend his crops).  There are misfires, like "The Harder They Don't Come."  Obviously, your mileage might vary on this, but it's hard to get mad even when segments flop, because the framing device basically has them hanging out in a sauna with naked women to segue from bit to bit, and I find that completely acceptable.  Like with Cheech and Chong's comedy, there's a strong feeling of "I can't believe they got away with this" in the construction of the film.  It seems underbaked, but at the same time, it's a film because they say it's a film.

Look, if you've seen "Up In Smoke" enough times that you want to switch things up a bit, "Still Smokin" is a reasonable option.  It's definitely an option B, but it's not unfunny (like most of "The Corsican Brothers" is).  I stumbled across this flipping through the channel guide late at night, and that seemed about the right amount of effort to devote to checking "Still Smokin" out.  Again, this might come off like a thirteen year old's idea of a good time, but is it really any worse than whatever Kevin Hart has put out this month?  And I guarantee nothing Kevin Hart's ever done is as funny as the "Ralph and Herbie" bit that closes this movie.

2.5 / 5 - TV

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