Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie (Tommy Chong, 1980)
Flying in the face of the many red flags pointing to terribly declining quality from various trusted film folk, I’ve decided to soldier on and catch up with Cheech and Chong’s films (in chronological order, natch) in anticipation of the Deuce Film Series’ screening in 35mm of the stoner duo’s third film, Nice Dreams (where they take over an ice cream truck business — I can only imagine the insane level of munchie satiation going on there…) and the results coming out of this first sequel… aren’t half-bad. In fact, the opening scene, with C&C stealing gas from a car with an absurdly large barrel that they fill up and can’t possibly manage, then trying to dump the whole thing all at once into the neighbor’s car they’ve ‘borrowed’ (ssuuuuurrre) so they can get to work… then, only to have Chong light up a spliff moments before Cheech asks if he smells gas in the car… well, you can guess where it’s going. This scene works great in all the ways that the entire original film did — it’s not only just funny, it continues the duo’s bumbling yet entirely engaging personas and also has some social perspective, placing us in a world where struggling each day is a reality.
After that, though, other than what is certainly the funniest laugh out loud bit of the first two films (if not the whole series) dealing with laundry soap disguised as cocaine and Chong’s drug test urine sample (he’s switched it out for his sister’s pee, naturally, as he’d never pass), the humor and situations start to get a bit more bumpy (with some of them way too drawn out) and I suspect a big part of that has to do with the replacement of the original Up in Smoke director Lou Adler, who was steeped in the LA music scene and had grown up deep in the heart of Mexican-American East LA, bringing an authentic feeling, from the neighborhood conditions (including dealings with cops and customs agents) to the nihilistic punk band milieu Roxy at the conclusion, by Tommy Chong. Chong often allows the gags to linger on (including ones that weren’t working from the start) far too long.
Even with its flaws, though, there is still that opening, plenty of laugh out loud and enjoyable moments amongst the awkward straining for humor (I mean, along with the aforementioned soap/pee bit, the scene of Cheech fighting his way into the house against Chong’s horribly screeching guitar playing that is decimating the neighborhood is one of those moments that’s perhaps not laugh out loud, but amusing to watch) and, while the duo’s own songs may not be as consistently great as in Up in Smoke, they still manage some catchy enjoyable tunes (“Mexican Americans” is worthy… and what is that amusing “Beaners” thing Chong plays?). Cheech playing his cousin Red, with a blonde wig, carrying around pounds of marijuana with him (to the excitement of Chong) has it’s moments, but doesn’t exactly reveal Cheech as a man of a thousand comic faces… and Paul Reubens is a bit wasted in his part (though perhaps he didn’t really have a concrete comic persona to play on at that point, I don’t know).
And at least it all ends in properly over-the-top and absurdly charming fashion, with Chong’s ‘The Man’ character hurrying home after having been abducted onto an alien spacecraft with Red and waking Cheech to try the mind-blowing ‘space coke’ they gave him, leading to Cheech’s ‘Pedro’, in a slow motion super-human rampage, ultimately flying off to space, with the Man holding on to his leg, the credits playing as they both turn animated. A nice way to conclude… and has me more committed then ever going into the third film.