Lou Adler only directed one other movie other than this, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains. Even if he wasn’t a legend in the world of music, that would be enough to make him a success. He believed so much in this movie that he put up $800,000 of his own money to finish it after Paramount president Michael Eisner saw a rough cut and refused to give up any more cash. The joke was on Eisner. Prior to its official release, the film had already made back its budget and would go on to make $104 million worldwide.
Anthony “Man” Stoner (Thomas Chong) is an unemployed, marijuana-smoking drummer who is told by his rich parents (Strother Martin and Edie Adams!) that if he doesn’t get a job by the end of the day, he’s going to military school. He’s picked up while hitchhiking by Pedro de Pacas (Cheech). Their first joint leads to them being arrested and nearly going to jail before the judge on their case gets busted drinking.
A police bust on Pedro’s cousin Strawberry’s (Tom Skerritt!) houses ends with our heroes being sent to Tijuana because Pedro’s relatives called the INS on themselves so they could get a free trip home for a wedding. On the way back, they get caught in a conspiracy to smuggle a van made out of weed back into the U.S., running afoul of Sgt. Stedenko (Stacy Keach) and leading to the police constantly hounding them.
Like all the Cheech and Chong movies, this can be best summed up by the hijinks ensue rule. State the story: two stoners meet and…hijinks ensue.
June Fairchild shows up. She was one of the Gazzarri Dancers on the syndicated variety show Hollywood A Go-Go and the co-inventor of the Statue Dance. She also lived with Danny Hutton and came up with the name for his band, Three Dog Night. She plays the Ajax Lady, a woman who wants to get high so badly that she’ll sniff Ajax. This is her final role, because sadly, life imitated art. And Harry Dean Stanton was originally in this as a prison guard, but he was cut from the final movie.
Also, the craziest thing about this movie is when the dog takes a burrito right out of Chong’s hand. That really happened and was not a trained dog.
Cheech and Chong had been a comedy duo for a decade at the time they made this. It shows, as this has a rambling energy that stays fun for the entire film. This is the movie that I watch whenever life gets me down.