The comedic duo of Richard “Cheech” Marin and Thomas B. Kin Chong were the counterculture kings of the 1970s and early 80s, with a slew of successful conceptual comedy albums that led to three of the greatest stoner comedies of all time; Up in Smoke, Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie, and Nice Dreams. The duo’s success waned in the latter half of the “Me” generation, however, when, at Marin’s urging, the pair branched out into “straighter” fare with the critical and commercial disaster, The Corsican Brothers. Creative differences ultimately led to them calling it quits, but Cheech and Chong never really went away, with Marin going on to become a supporting fixture on television (Nash Bridges) and film, while Chong continued down the path that made him famous, with a reoccurring role as a stoner record store owner on That 70’s Show, as well as a popular line of Chong branded “smoking aids” (the latter leading to a controversial eight month prison stay that further solidified his reputation as a counterculture icon).
In 2008, the pair reunited, and hit the road for a live comedy tour in which they blended new material with the classics. Now, with the release of Cheech & Chong’s Animated Movie, fans are treated to a whole new take on the pair’s celebrated stand-up routine (most of it derived from the classic 70s comedy albums), with many of their best routines brought to vivid life by directors Brandon and Eric Chambers.
Animated in fittingly crude style, the film revisits such classic bits as the screaming Catholic school nun who is the subject of “Sister Mary Elephant”, the game show parody of “Let’s Make a Dope Deal”, and the always hilarious “Dave”, in which Chong furiously tries to dispose of evidence when he thinks that a man knocking on his door (actually Cheech) is the police. We’re also treated to the fan favorite glam-metal stomp and pomp of “Earache My Eye” (My mother talkin’ to me man, she tell me how to live…but I don’t listen to her ‘cause my head is like a sieve!”). While each of the skits are meant to stand on their own, an attempt is made to tie things together with the inclusion of Buster, a pubic lice who spends the length of the film trying to track down Cheech and Chong for a taste of their potent buds. The character is wholly superfluous as his only purpose is to add shock value with his gross-out gags and vulgar antics.
Longtime fans of Cheech & Chong already know this stuff like the back of their own resin-stained hands, but seeing it animated in a style that’s a cross between Spongebob Squarepants and a Flash-based videogame is actually quite the treat, and would have been even more so had this reviewer not burned all of his bridges with his dealer over a decade ago.
I do question how well this stuff will go over with the Harold and Kumar set, however, as the bits are tend to be 70s-centric and fairly tame by comparison. The misguided attempt to “modernize” things with the inclusion of the crass Buster character only serves to make the stand-up routines seem all the more antiquated. Still, without Cheech & Chong, Harold and Kumar probably wouldn’t exist, so, at the very least, this should be considered essential viewing/listening for pot purists and herb historians.
Fox presents Cheech & Chong’s Animated Movie on Blu-ray with a flawless 1.85:1 1080p transfer that’s as crisp and vibrant as one would expect a new animated feature to be. It’s paired with a 5.1 DTS HD track that marries the vintage audio with the new material in convincing fashion, although it’s not a perfect mix, and the old routines are a bit brittle sounding at times. Still, overall it’s a quality presentation.
Fox includes a very impressive collection of extras with this set, top-lined by a trio of commentary tracks; one hilarious and insightful track featuring Marin and Chong; a track featuring the directing duo of Brandon and Eric Chambers; and, finally, a more subdued and conversational track featuring Chong and his son, Paris.
Also included is the short featurette, "Medical Marijuana Blues" Session with Blind Melon Chitlin' (HD), in which we see Tommy Chong performing his legendary bit in the studio, and a slideshow (HD) featuring period Cheech & Chong photos and ephemera paired with stills from the animated feature.
If you’re a fan of Cheech & Chong and, like me, it’s been awhile since you’ve had the pleasure of sitting down and listening to their old routines, Cheech & Chong’s Animated Movie is a hoot and a welcome throwback treat. The animation is primitive for a “feature”, but no more so than myriad Cartoon Network offerings, and actually suits the material quite nicely. My only gripe would be with the Chambers’ brothers’ decision to try to modernize things by bringing in the unappealing Buster character as a means of tying the skits together, but his bits are easy enough to skip over to get to the good stuff.