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Up In Smoke (1978)


Imagine that look on Cheech's face right there, but on me for OVER HALF THE MOVIE
Imagine that look on Cheech's face right there, but on me for OVER HALF THE MOVIE

Genre: Comedy

Starring: Cheech Marin (From Dusk Till Dawn  "Nash Bridges"), Tommy Chong (Cheech & Chong's Next Movie  Still Smokin)

Directed By: Lou Adler

Overview: A couple of lame idiots do really, really unproductive things.

I've recently written that a review I was writing was one of the most pleasant times I've had in recent months. Before that, I wrote about how my Overview made me want to watch the film again, and before that, while looking forward to ranting about a movie, I found it instead to be an innocuously pleasant, entertaining couple hours. Well after all that, I can say, "FINALLY, a real movie that I can sink my teeth into." Goddamn did Up In Smoke ever suck. Of course, that's not what made me mad. I long ago predicted this reaction to this film. What infurates me is that after my research, I found Up In Smoke's inclusion in 1001 Movies to be an even more shameful 'suck' than Cheech and Chong's on-screen antics. Let us discuss.

Let's start with the characters and plot, because I have a strange suspicion that unless you're a die-hard stoner, you don't know much about Up In Smoke either. We open with Pedro De Pacas, a broke Mexican-American who spends all his money on dope and his tricked-out piece-of-shit car. A real go-getter, he spends his time looking for girls to pick up and drive around. Then there's Anthony 'Man' Stoner, hippie child of rich parents, who promptly kick him out cause he's a loser. The heavily bearded Anthony Stoner meets Pedro when he successfully passes for a girl with melons shoved under his shirt. The friendship is solidified when Stoner smokes Pedro up. From here they go around trying to find dope, get deported and have to come back to America through a haze of retardation, pot and 'ludes. Through a new process, marijuana can be transformed to look like any other material, including televisions or, in the case of Cheech and Chong, a van made entirely out of it. Whacky-stupid pigs are hot on their trail but their imcompetence is obvious. There's also a subplot involving a battle of the bands that they want to participate in.

 Oh wait, this scene is funny, actually, no really. See, the cop gets high off fumes then asks for some food! HOW ORIGINAL!
Oh wait, this scene is funny, actually, no really. See, the cop gets high off fumes then asks for some food! HOW ORIGINAL!

If I sound less than impressed, well, duh. This movie wasn't bad enough to really genuinely get a good old hate-on for, but was still a total waste of time. It elicited out of me three laughs. One genuine, two at myself for willingly subjecting myself to the idiocy. Hearing a character say the word "Man" like a frontal lobe trauma victim is not entertaining, and even less enjoyable the 36th time. Really, a bunch of dumbasses wasting their lives just doesn't seem to interest me, who knew? For ye readers considering a first viewing of Up In Smoke, those of you who suspect standard stoner jokes, predictable clichés and moronic actions by two dimensional characters, you will indeed get exactly what you expected... except that it's not at all funny. 

Forty minutes in, I could see my filing cabinet leering at me, begging to be organized. The ironic twist is that this film - one mired deeply in a lazy culture of sedentary do-nothingness - made me do something productive at the same time. Very few films can say they helped my life the way this has.

 Oh Great ANOTHER scene with the car filled with drug-haze. HILARIOUS!
Oh Great ANOTHER scene with the car filled with drug-haze. HILARIOUS!

Performance: 6 Cinematography: 7 Script: 5 Plot: 5 Mood: 5

Overall Rating: 56% (...And So Was That Two Hours)
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Club Aftertaste:
Perhaps I'm being a little harsh. On it's own, as a straight-up movie, it's probably nowhere near as bad as I'm making it out to be. The acting is sufficiently adequate, the cinematography is perfectly professional and although the plot is weak, it's intentionally so - fine. But seeing this from the perspective of a movie I NEED to see before I die?! Holy crusty carbuncles, get real. I am of course aware that that filmic guide is written with a general quota of 'films per year', but I call total bullsh on Up In Smoke's necessary role in 1978 cinema. Sadly I couldn't come up with any more deserving titles off the top of my head, until I remembered THE INTERNET. Looking at a very short list, I was not only astounded at how many no-brainer replacements there were but I was downright ashamed that the book had made me review this one instead of any of these:
I genuinely see Attack of the Killer Tomatoes as having a greater impact on cinema. It's schlock value, I recall, still has a valuable weight. Debbie Does Dallas is obviously disqualified, but it also has a more valid place in cinema, even if merely as one of the big three 'film study' pornos out there (Deep Throat and The Devil in Miss Jones are the other two). Watership Down comes from literature and I need not argue its more poignant message. It makes me wonder if the 1001 book had a minimum quota of required Comedies. That being said, what the Hell is wrong with Animal House?! I'll just let that obvious goof sink in to all you for a second. Before my rage goes off the rails, I'll toss in a couple other useless titles. I mean what import could Midnight Express and Superman have to film culture? Holy pickled Jayzis.
For as much as I'm infuriated by the inclusion of Up In Smoke over those I've just mentioned, no list is perfect. For as grand as this 1001 may be, it is indeed a sum of its parts. Surely there had to be concessions made. Imagine the process of hacking off a dozen titles every new edition to make room for the last year's most recent releases. Throw in Genre requirements and caps to the release years and you still have to consider how Steven Jay Schneider came to edit the 60 contributing critics into one book... I'd like to speak to him about his process for sure.
With 108 years of cinema, that's an average of 9-10 films per year - not an impossible task, but surely not a pleasant one either. You were wrong with this one, Jay, but I forgive you, and I still love your book. Just don't make me watch Cheech and Chong again.

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This movie is probably not meant to be watched without being stoned. People tend to remember how something made them feel the first time around, regardless of their chemical state.

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