Although Richard "Cheech" Marin and Tommy Chong split up their famous comedy duo in the 1980s, in the past few years they have been making a number of comebacks. It's helpful to know going into Cheech & Chong's Animated Movie that it's primarily material taken directly from their 1970s comedy albums (with a bit of editing and sound effects added), set to new animation similar in style to the Flash animations that have been on the internet since video capability was added. Not knowing this, and especially if you aren't very familiar with their albums, the movie may not make a whole lot of sense, and if you are familiar with them you may be wondering if any new material is present. There really isn't any plot, although there wasn't much of any in their previous movies either (especially 1980's Cheech & Chong's Next Movie).
"Wait a minute- did you say â€˜comedy albums'?" Yes, kids- in the days before home video, comedians would put out albums with comedy routines and sometimes funny songs as well. Radio was more adventurous in those days as well, so you would often hear the less profane selections from these in between songs. Of course with there being no picture, you sort of had to imagine for yourself what was going on in some of the routines. You'd then try to re-enact them for your friends at school later.
Cheech & Chong's Animated Movie could have been quite entertaining, but mainly I had to question the choice of routines used here. Many of them just don't lend themselves well to the animated treatment they're given here. The bright spots include a segment where the two play dogs named Ralph and Herbie (where they crawled around on all fours on stage), which are drawn here as dogs with Cheech and Chong's likenesses, and "Sister Mary Elephant," one I remember showing up on the radio occasionally where a kindly, elderly nun calmly teaches a class of disruptive students and gradually loses her patience with them as they continue to ignore her lesson. A number of segments are connected with the two watching TV (as heard originally as the "Television Medley" on the "Big Bambu" album), including the game show "Let's Make a Dope Deal." Many other less memorable sketches were chosen however, leaving one wondering why- such as "Up His Nose," involving a stereotypical Jewish man telling a doctor about how his son has put everything imaginable up his nose, and stretching the joke out far too long. Each segment is preceded by the routine's title appearing onscreen then dissolving into a puff of smoke, which gets annoying rather quickly.
One of Cheech & Chong's signature musical pieces, "Earache My Eye", is included here, but it omits the argument between the son and his dad heard in the original recording- I thought that could have been funny in animated form if done right. Another big omission is "Basketball Jones", which actually was animated in 1973 and would have made a great extra on this disc as I have never seen it released on any home video medium.
While the animation itself isn't very spectacular, the picture quality of this Blu-Ray disc is excellent, with every bit of detail visible with just the slightest bit of jaggedness in some scenes.
The main audio is in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and with the majority of the sound taken from comedy albums recorded in the 1970s, the sound is very clear, with the only sign of age being that Cheech and Chong sound younger here than they do currently. A few new sound effects have been added, and the surrounds provide a bit of ambient effects.
Also included are Spanish and Canadian French (referred to in the menu as Quebecois ) dubs in 5.1 Dolby Digital, which are quite interesting since they were translated and recorded recently for this movie (some brief credits are shown for each of these tracks as well). I'm looking forward to checking these out in their entirety when time allows.
Subtitles are included in English SDH style and Spanish (the French and additional Spanish subtitle tracks are only to translate words appearing onscreen while watching with the dubbed tracks.
Cheech & Chong's Animated Movie includes a whopping three commentary tracks. I found the first track with Marin and Chong themselves (speaking in their normal voices out of character, Tommy's Canadian accent rather apparent) more entertaining than the actual movie. They don't discuss the movie or its animation very much, instead concentrating on how the routines used here were conceived and recorded, along with a lot of personal stories and of course some talk about drugs. The second commentary is with directors Branden and Eric Chambers which focuses on the animation, and the third with Tommy Chong again and his son Paris, where Tommy seems to reminisce some more.
Also included is a short video of Tommy Chong as his "Blind Melon Chitlin" character perfoming "Medical Marijuana Blues", and a slide show of 70s-era Cheech & Chong press photos and pictures from their comedy routines of that time, compared with stills from the animated movie of related sketches.
The disc opens with trailers, both in hi-def, for The Heat and Movie 43 as well as a Fox "Blu-Ray Experience" promo.
The idea of animating routines from Cheech & Chong's albums sounded like a good idea, but the choice of routines and less than stellar animation make it a misfire. Recommended for hardcore fans, but for those more indifferent to Cheech & Chong I have to give this a Rent it.
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.