SXSW review: Cheech & Chong’s Last Movie

The documentary Cheech & Chong’s Last Movie is not necessarily their last collaboration. Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin were my inspiration when I was a mere lad freshman in high school. I was memorizing their comedy routines a full year before I started getting stoned.

“It’s Dave.”

“Dave’s not here.”

Helmed by David Bushnell the film has the duo on a cross-desert trek talking while driving a Rolls Royce for almost a full hour before the film gets around to exploring their actual filmography. Cheech drives with Chong in the passenger seat constantly bringing up the fact that he was the directing force of the group.

You’ll discover things you didn’t know about the stoner comedy duo. Chong was a songwriter and musician whose music can be found on records by The Supremes and Bobby Taylor, the latter perhaps the most soulful Motown vocalist you never heard of. Cheech’s dad was a cop.

Archival footage includes interviews by regional television hosts forgotten by time as well as youthful journalist who eventually made their mark in the media like Geraldo Rivera. At the world premiere post-screening Q&A the pair mentioned that the filmmakers uncovered and used portions from four hours of footage of the Rivera ABC interview that originally ran under ten minutes.

The back and forth in the car makes one think that these guys never agree on anything. As Martin later tells the Q&A audience “We disagree about a lot but in the end we’re not just friends, we’re brothers.” These are artists who agree to disagree.

The first person to direct the comedy team in their debut film Up In Smoke, Lou Adler, himself an influential figure in the music industry of the 1970s, tied them into a contract that gave him the monetary windfall while Cheech and Chong got screwed. Time has a way of healing rifts between true friendships and Adler appears as a hitchhiker who bums a ride.

Other films that are chronicled include Cheech & Chong’s Next MovieNice DreamsThings Are Tough All OverStill Smokin’, and The Corsican Brothers. Perhaps not oddly no mention is made of 1990’s Far Out Man.

When they wrangled out of the Adler contract they got a million each for their second film and Tommy became the director.

Cheech & Chong’s Last Movie has a way of making you appreciate how their working relationship contained a sense of humanity that was missing from similar comic teams like Martin and Lewis or Abbott and Costello. Despite their creative differences Tommy and Cheech exude a bond that exceeds petty arguments over directorial decisions.

Hands down the coolest part of the film revolves around the guys making a recording of “Basketball Jones” and having the celebrity clout to get George Harrison, Billy Preston, and Carole King (all next door in other studios) to drop in and play back-up instrumentation.

Cheech & Chong’s Last Movie celebrates a comic duo who’ve successfully made people laugh in two different centuries.

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