Up in Smoke

Released:  1978

Cast:  Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Edie Adams, Strother Martin, Stacy Keach, Tom Skerritt

SUMMARY:  While out cruising in his low-rider, Pedro de Pacas (Cheech Marin) comes across a stranded Anthony “Man” Stoner (Tommy Chong), whose car has broken down.  Man lives with his parents, but left home that morning after being told to choose between getting a job or going to military school.  Man prefers to spend his time smoking marijuana and playing the drums, and takes both with him when he leaves.  After being picked up by Pedro and discovering that he also likes to smoke marijuana, Man produces a huge joint made of Maui Wowie and “Labrador”.  When Pedro questions the second ingredient, Man tells him that his dog ate his stash, and that he had to follow the dog around for three days to retrieve it.  After smoking the joint Man remains fairly lucid, but Pedro goes off his head and the two are arrested.  Luckily for them, Man discovers that the judge is drinking vodka instead of water, and the pair are released.  Man joins Pedro’s band, but decide that they cannot practice properly until they find some marijuana.  They travel to every place they can think of, but nobody has any weed.  Finally Pedro takes Man to his cousin Strawberry’s (Tom Skerritt) house.  Strawberry fought in Vietnam, and suffered some mental damage, but when he asks Pedro to go with him to get the marijuana, Pedro agrees and leaves Man at the house.  An impromptu party breaks out, attracting the attention of local police, who is determined to make a big drug bust.  The police raid the house, and Man frantically tries to escape; at the same time, Strawberry and Pedro return.  When Strawberry sees the police he has a flashback and believes that they are Viet Cong, and Pedro is forced to break Man out by himself.  To Pedro’s surprise, the police are not raiding for drugs but rather illegal immigrants; relatives have a wedding in Mexico, and called Immigration on themselves in order to get a free ride and lunch.  Pedro and Man are included in the raid.

Once in Tijuana, the two try to find a ride back into the United States.  Pedro arranges to drive a truck from his uncle’s upholstery shop back into the U.S., but he and Man cannot find the right address.  Instead of the upholstery shop they go to a disguised marijuana processing factory, where the workers have almost completed building a van out of “fiberweed” (marijuana hardened and molded into a plastic).  When told that Pedro and Man are there to “pick up the van” the factory gives them the marijuana van.  Unbeknownst to them, the police are waiting to make a major drug bust, and are led by overly-enthusiastic Sgt. Stedenko (Stacy Keach) and his inept team.  The police know the van is made of marijuana (although Pedro and Man do not), and begin pursuit almost immediately.  Due to a serious of accidental occurrences, the pair manage to make it back into the U.S. without being caught.  On the way they pick up two women who are hitchhiking, and who are headed to the Battle of the Bands at the Roxy Theatre.  The boys decide to call the other members of their band and join the contest; as they drive around town, they manage to stay out of the grasp of the police through more comical near-misses.  During this time, the rear bumper of the van catches fire and begins to burn the marijuana; when the police finally do find the van outside the Roxy, they unwittingly get high and only figure it out when they get the munchies.  Inside, Man is nearly catatonic after being given the wrong drugs by one of the women.  Fortunately for him, the burning van is parked right by the theatre’s air intake vent, and the smoke begins to waft through the theatre.  It snaps Man out of his state, and causes the audience to rave madly for the band’s song; they win the contest.

MY TAKE:  Cheech and Chong have always seemed to have a reputation for being real stoners, but I once read that they didn’t actually smoke anything during filming of these movies, because they wouldn’t be sharp enough to hit their marks and jokes.  This is the very first Cheech and Chong movie, and is also basically the first “stoner comedy”.  What a contribution to society.  It’s funny, but there are only so many places you can go in a stoner comedy.  It’s not exactly highly intelligent material.  I thought the movie started out really funny, but somewhere about the time they get to Strawberry’s it was starting to wear thin.  Basically every event in the film involves the two getting stoned and lucking out of crazy situations.  Like I said, there’s only so many places to go.  The ending scene, where Cheech drops the joint in his lap, was also pretty funny, but the more extravagant things got the less funny they seemed to become.  Seriously, a van made out of pot?  Wouldn’t anybody that got within a mile radius of that thing be able to smell it?

RATING:  Starts funny but loses it.

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