On the unofficial pothead holiday of 4/20 this year, the crown princes of stoner comedy, Cheech & Chong, released a concert film of their Light Up America reunion tour compiled from two performances on March 14, 2009, at the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio, TX. If you missed their pass through your own town or got too wasted at the show to remember it, here's another chance to see the fellas in action.
During the 1970s and early '80s, Richard "Cheech" Marin and Tommy Chong, the last great American comedy duo, saw their counterculture drug humor become mainstream due to the hilarity and popularity of their albums and movies. They parted ways in 1985 and had various successes on their own, particularly on television, where Cheech co-starred on 'Nash Bridges' and Tommy had a recurring role on 'That '70s Show'. Apparently time and legal fees heal all wounds, resulting in a lot of talk about the team reuniting over the past decade, usually in reference to a film, but on June 3, 2008, Tommy announced he and Cheech were going to do a comedy tour that is still currently running.
The show opens with Tommy's wife Shelby doing stand-up. Knowing her audience, it's heavy on pot references, which seems to be what the laughs are supposed to derive from rather than her forgettable material. Later, Tommy will also deliver some stand-up, but the highlight of the night is the recreation of classic C&C bits, such as game-show parody "Let's Make A Dope Deal," which finds Bob (Tommy) competing for prizes if he can spell his name right, and the canine sketch "Ralph & Herbie," which finds them on all fours and horny for the poodle Fifi.
A third of the show is musical performances. The guys take the stage in different guises like country singer Red Neck (Cheech), blues guitarist Blind Melon Chitlin (Tommy), and glam rocker Alice Bowie (Cheech) lip-synching to "Earache My Eye". They then come out as themselves and close the show with a trio of songs: "Born In East LA," "Mexican Americans/Beaners," and "Up In Smoke."
To augment the show, the film also includes a number of bits interspersed throughout, but they don't offer many laughs. Pedro (Cheech) and Man (Tommy) are in attendance, sitting up in a balcony offering commentary like The Muppets' Statler and Waldorf. Doug and Dougie, two lisping homosexuals, do the same. There is also "back stage" footage. For the most part, none of this extraneous material is very funny and feels like they just used the first things they could think up.
What's most impressive about watching Cheech & Chong is how they create scenes out of mainly dialogue. With a photo projected behind them and usually a couple of chairs, they make every setting believable. The comedy is crude, but still provides plenty of laughs, and they have even made slight updates to the script.
The one drawback to 'Hey Watch This' is that at 83 minutes and with such a long career, there is some material that didn't get included like what is arguably their signature bit "Dave," "Sister Mary Elephant," and the father/son dialogue that comes after the song on "Earache My Eye" that my friends and I used to laugh at in someone's garage.
The video is given a 1080p/ AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer that looks very good. Recorded with HD cameras, the source is very clean. There is a limited use of colors, mainly through their wardrobe, but what appears is clean and well saturated, except for the projected backgrounds where the hues aren't as sharp. Fleshtones are natural and consistent throughout. Black levels are more than adequate and the contrast is strong.
There's a good amount of detail evident as the stage lights cover the men, creating bright detail against dark areas and adding depth in conjunction with the backgrounds. The balcony scenes are shot in low light, as if the performance was happening, but this causes these scenes to be softer and not reveal as much detail and texture. I didn't notice any artifacting issues.
The audio option is English Dolby Digital 5.1 and does a good job replicating the live experience. The dialogue plays out the front center with the right and left offering support, though nothing appears to movie between channels. The enthusiastic audience fills the surrounds as does the music. "Earache My Eye" is the only time the subwoofer really kicks in and is required to do more beyond offering mild augmentation. The dynamic range is not overly expansive as only a few loud moments punctuate the soundtrack. The sound elements are well balanced for the most part, although the music on "Born in East LA" was louder than Cheech's singing.
Although their crude, drug-filled humor won't be to everyone's liking, fans should enjoy seeing this material brought to life one more time by the two comedic legends. Even though some of their best bits, like "Dave," aren't here, 'Hey Watch This' is a good introduction to the duo for those curious to see what all the fuss was about. The material that works makes up for extra bits that don't.