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Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke Print E-mail
Tuesday, 21 November 2000

Cheech And Chong's Up In Smoke

Paramount Home Entertainment
MPAA rating: R
starring: Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Edie Adams, Strother Martin, Stacy Keach
release year: 1978
film rating: Two-and-a-Half Stars
reviewed by: Abbie Bernstein

Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong were already masters of stoner comedy for about a decade before they strung a loose plot around their album and concert material for the script of 1978’s ‘Up in Smoke.’ Directed by Lou Adler and written by Cheech and Chong, ‘Smoke’ will probably be blissfully funny for anybody who’s into ‘70s drug humor. For anybody who is not into this bag, however, amiable as these guys are, ‘Smoke’ will evolve into slow torture if taken in one sitting.

In ‘Smoke,’ Marin plays a laid-back family man who leaves the house one morning in search of decent dope. He soon encounters Chong, who plays a rich-kid quasi-runaway (even 22 years ago, he looks a little old to be threatened by his father with military school, but what the heck) who is already pleasantly high when their paths cross. The two begin traveling together, meeting cops, chicks and dealers ensue en route to a big musical finale at L.A.’s Roxy Theatre.

A DVD may be the ideal format for ‘Up in Smoke,’ as it allows recreational users – er, viewers – to sample the goods in small, chapter-long segments rather than overdosing on routines that seem repetitive if viewed one after another. Unfortunately, there are only 11 chapters, which means each section is on the long side, even though the film itself is a fairly short (if meandering) 85 minutes.

Color transfer on the ‘Smoke’ DVD is terrific. Reds and yellows are especially rich and bright, without any streaking or glare. The print is crisp and clean, with none of the graininess that mars some pre-‘80s films when they’re transferred to home video.

Sound is a mixed bag. In Chapter 1, music coming from an onscreen source (a TV cartoon) is so scratchy that it may cause momentary worry that a speaker has blown, before the scene’s ambient noise kicks in and we realize that we’re hearing bad reception on the character’s set, not a home theatre problem. The mix in a bathroom scene is so specific that we get ambient music in the left main speaker and (for what it’s worth) bodily functions in the right main. The 5.1 mix jams, complete with subwoofer happily thumping away, on an instantly recognizable low-rider anthem in Chapter 1. However, the rears tend to be largely underemployed for much of the rest of the film, often just used for mild fill. In Chapter 2, there seems to be some raspiness in the dialogue track, but this has more to do with the actors’ voices than a problem in the mix and/or transfer. Chapter 3 features a very nice, cleanly transmitted (through the center and mains) "talking blues" (i.e., early rap) music and rhyme segment from Marin and Chapter 4 has a calypso-flavored ode to pot entitled "Searching." A little later in the chapter, those old enough to remember vinyl can trip down memory lane as a stuck record merges with well-recorded dialogue and ambient sound. Chapter 9 has a gag about fake sex that sells itself with some well-pitched vocalizations. Later in the same chapter, an onstage bad imitation of Mick Jagger dives up and down in volume, but since part of the point of this sequence is that the singer’s amp equipment is lousy, this is a positive rather than negative attribute.

The DVD also comes with an audio commentary track of Marin and Adler reminiscing about making the film in relaxed, enthusiastic fashion, and a selection of deleted scenes.

‘Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke’ is reasonably good-natured and clever in its way, but if you’re not a die-hard fan of weed jokes, it’s best taken in small doses.

more details
sound format:
English Dolby 5.1 Surround; Restored English Dolby Mono
aspect ratio(s):
Original Aspect Ratio, Enhanced for 16x9 TVs (exact aspect ratio not given)
special features: Audio Commentary by Cheech Marin and Director/Producer Lou Adler; Deleted Scenes with Commentary; Theatrical Trailer; Production Notes; English Closed-Captioning; Chapter Search
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Kenwood DV-403
receiver: Kenwood VR-407
main speakers: Paradigm Atom
center speaker: Paradigm CC-170
rear speakers: Paradigm ADP-70
subwoofer: Paradigm PDR-10
monitor: 27-inch Toshiba

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