[2 March 2009]
PopMatters Features Editor
Let’s face it: even at their best, Cheech and Chong’s brand of stoner humour was never that great. The moments of hilarity in their only good picture, 1978’s Up In Smoke, were enough to make that movie a better-than-average diversion. But they made five more features over the next six years, each less watchable than what came before. After culminating in the brainless (and staggeringly doobie-free) Corsican Brothers, a deeply misguided attempt to remake Start the Revolution Without Me, Cheech and Chong’s post-début celluloid run should have been allowed to slip into oblivion.
But for some obscure reason, Paramount’s new baby, the gaudy and pointless “I Love the 80’s” collection, has dug up Still Smokin’, Cheech and Chong’s third substandard movie after the apparently very lucky series of guesses that was Up in Smoke. Still Smokin’, lazily directed by Thomas Chong himself, only ran in theatres for about a week, and is widely reviled even by ardent fans of the duo. But here it is, all packaged up and ready for your next “I Love the 80’s” party.
Still Smokin’ tells the “story” of an ill-fated Dutch film festival that, by mistake, invited Cheech and Chong when they were trying to invite Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. This impossible accident is the root of many jokes in the first half, by the way, with some out-of-touch Euro walking up to them and saying something like: I am your biggest fan, Mr. Reynolds! To which Cheech replies: Hey man, I’m not Burt Reynolds, man!
No, seriously, that’s it. That’s the joke. It happens like five times.
So anyway, these two nitwits are put up in a lavish suite by the hapless festival producer, where they do a bunch of drugs while trying to come up with some funny sketches. From here on (and we’re only about 15 minutes in) the movie dissolves into a series of skits, each less amusing than the last, all culminating in an actual concert at which they save the day, or something, even though the film ends while they’re still onstage, so there’s no resolution to the whole plot thing, anyway.
And, since one of the running gags in the first half of the film was the tab these two morons were racking up at their hotel (“just sign for it” is an oft-repeated, but never funny, punchline), there is a very good chance that they have actually ruined all of the people behind the film festival that this concert was meant to save. In other words, thinking about stuff while watching this flick is a mistake.
There is, ultimately, little to say about such a film. It is pointless and inane, but seems to be thus by design. Neither character is developed at all (apart from the basic construction that Cheech is motivated by pursuit of sex while Chong is motivated by pursuit of dope). Amsterdam is treated as nothing more than a rainy, drug-friendly backdrop to their aimless wanderings. One entire scene is built around them ordering drug-based dishes at a riverside restaurant, and then…. eating them. This scene is about five minutes long.
In short, Still Smokin’ is among the least funny films you will ever see. This is in and of itself quite a serious problem for a comedy, but it gets worse. Not only is it not humorous, but it is lazily offensive in its attempts to be funny. So it isn’t just a bland bit of failed comedy, but rather a series of attempts at edgy satirical farce that relies on lame and easy stereotypes, scatological gross-outs, racism, jingoism, sexism, and homophobia. There is nary a clever thought in sight here – just cute ideas badly executed.
There’s the E.T. (the Extra Testicle) who chases pussy around like it isn’t attached to a person. There are the scores of brainless Europeans who keep mistaking Cheech for then world-famous megastar Burt Reynolds as though the film were taking place in Afghanistan rather than a first world European country. There are two whole scenes built around blackface (which, again, might be OK if they were funny, but the blackface is the very least offensive thing about them). Rape is a punch line a few times. So is wife-beating.
There is a scene that riffs on Star Wars in which they play two mincing gay caricatures in space-age drag whining about what to wear to the Death Star. There’s an entire series of scenes built around Chong’s obliviousness to the fact that he’s surrounded by naked boobies (which, we are asked to forget, are also attached to people). And, there’s a statuesque hotel maid who, although she has no lines to speak, and about whom we know nothing, accepts a series of harassing come-ons from Cheech, and then turns out to be an insatiable sexual dynamo who screws them both ‘till they’re sore and exhausted! Who could have seen that one coming? Oh, wait. Everyone.
The film winds up at the aforementioned concert which, apart from the fact that it represents the single least logical attempt to salvage a film festival that anyone could ever have conceived (i.e., not running a damn film), culminates in an extended sketch about two middle Americans watching a live sex act. As Cheech’s “wife” pukes into her purse, the audience laughs uneasily. And then, mercifully, the movie ends, and we turn it off, and try to forget that we just blew 910minutes on this hopeless bit of waste.