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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Up in Smoke (Blu-ray)
Up in Smoke (Blu-ray)
Paramount // R // April 10, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $12.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted April 24, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Movie:

I remember seeing the Cheech and Chong movies when I was a kid and not really understanding them or more I guess what their point was. And I think when Pineapple Express came out that the stoner comedy movie switch may have turned for me, I think because the film had its own voice and it was confident, albeit in a haze of weed smoke or some sort of allegory I guess. And as the ‘70s comedy duo marks milestones like the 40th anniversary of Up in Smoke, might as well take a second, much later look at this one.

The film is based on the audio sketches from the duo, with Lou Adler (who you may see next to Jack Nicholson at Lakers games) directing. "Man" (Chong) is a smoker who has no job but lives with his rich parents, and he runs into Pedro (Cheech) while hitchhiking after his car breaks down. Man follows Pedro on his journeys down into Tijuana and they bring a car whose exterior is made out of weed back across the border into California despite the narcotics force following them. The force is helmed by Sergeant Stedenko (Stacy Keach, Nebraska), and he has high aspirations for a huge bust despite the incompetence of his subordinates. Pedro and the Man eventually compete at a Battle of the Bands for a chance at musical stardom.

Considering that the pair kind of defined the art of stoner comedies, you can see the jokes inherent in the dazed nature of Chong's character and the kind of false bravado of Cheech's when they start smoking weed in the film, but more importantly they quietly skewer some of the preconceived notions of and stigmas in being a marijuana user that were still prevalent decades after Reefer Madness came out. But they also make the material they honed on albums and on stage accessible to viewers who may not have been privy to it before and it gives an added appreciation to the sketches you may not have had before.

Moreover, there's a certain confidence in the duo's telling of these jokes that translates to the other characters around them, making them a comfortable part of the C&C Cinematic Universe. Putting aside the fact that you can't help but wonder how Strother Martin, (The Wild Bunch) and Tom Skerritt (M*A*S*H) were in a stoner comedy, they along with Keach put together memorable performances that they make their own, just as the Pedro and Man characters Cheech and Chong created and honed for years before Up in Smoke was released.

It may be a little grey around the edges, but at 40 Up in Smoke is a fun movie that you should NOT see when you're a kid as I did, not because of drugs, but because there's much more nuance that you'll pick up on and appreciate when you're older. And maybe a little drugs. But still, it's place in the comedic pantheon is there for a reason, and it's nice to see it in high-definition.

The Blu-ray Disc:
The Video:

In its 40th anniversary Paramount puts the film on Blu-ray for the first time, and it looks pretty good for its age. Flesh tones are natural and colors are replicated nicely, and image detail on wider shots has much more than I was expecting during the shots when the weed car (or Pedro's low-rider) are on the roads. Darker moments of the film show more of the grain such as the appearance of the Ajax lady just before the raid or during the final concert, and the pink in Pedro's tutu looks natural to boot. All in all this was a nicely done transfer.

The Sound:

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track for the film is a pleasant surprise and up to the challenge here, with the film's numerous songs (from ‘War' onward) sounding clean and more dynamic than expected. Low-end fidelity in the low rider is active and channel panning is convincing even for a film of this nature. Dialogue is also well-balance and consistent through the film. Clearly Paramount put some effort into this and it's worth it.

Extras:

Cheech and Adler join up for a commentary that spends time pointing out trivia onscreen like locations that aren't around anymore and such. They talk about the larger things like the albums they made and transitioning that material to movies, but also sprinkles in some production recall here and there. It gets a little name-droppy at times with Cheech tossing in Quentin Tarantino's name among others but it's a nice, slightly topical track. Next is "Up in Smoke at 40" (15:15) where Cheech and Chong recall their respective first time smoking weed, and they talk abou their comedy, how they did their bits and albums, how Adler helped making them popular, and just how stoned they were on the set. This was a nice new feature here. "Lighting it Up" (11:11) is a similar feature recorded a decade ago where the duo (recorded separately) talk about some of the same things in this, but with more recall about the period. "Roach Clips" are the deleted scenes (8, 11:29) with an uncredited Harry Dean Stanton cameo among other gems. There's a video for "Earache My Eye" (5:43) and a montage of Pedro saying ‘man' (2:35), followed by two radio spots and a trailer (3:02).

Final Thoughts:

Quietly Paramount has put together an enjoyable and affordable package for Up in Smoke that's excellent to boot. For a comedy like this, not everyone may get it, but everyone should experience it to see why the film and the stars are so beloved. Technically the presentation is a nice surprise on both fronts, and I can't help but think this is as good as it will get on the extras for the film, and it's one of the better releases of 2018. Definitely worth checking out…man.

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