SXSW Film Review: Cheech and Chong's Last Movie – Austin Chronicle

”We’re old, but we’re still here,” quipped Tommy Chong after the world premiere of a documentary detailing his and Cheech Marin’s stratospheric rise to international stardom. Largely credited as the first “rock-n-roll comedians,” the duo pioneered stoner humor in the 1970s.
Known by their joint moniker, Cheech and Chong have clearly maintained treasure status and a steady stream of new fans. Lucky patrons at C-Boy’s Heart and Soul on Monday night enjoyed some surprise live tunes from the aging pair; when they moseyed toward their seats on Tuesday, the Paramount’s SXSW crowd erupted into cheers. The first fully authorized recounting of 50-plus years as a showbiz powerhouse tells the tale of their journey together, apart, and back again. Clocking in around 2 hours, Cheech and Chong’s Last Movie is a tad lengthy with its very detailed timeline, but it held the audience’s attention anyway. Some of us had partaken, which probably helped.
The directorial debut of David Bushell, Last Movie was produced by Robbi Chong, one of Tommy’s grown children. Several impactful people appear as backseat ride-alongs on the staged desert road trip that anchors the film’s arc and nods to their hippie-era buddy road trips. Their debut film from 1978, Up In Smoke, is flooded with ridiculous “marijuana”-induced antics and boob jokes that charmed fans across multiple generations – and that humor remained a cornerstone of their careers. Cheech & Chong were stand-up icons with platinum-selling albums, awards, and sold-out shows. They won hearts, inspired sedated minds, and became high-profile faces of counterculture – despite, as they explain in the doc, becoming rich and never consuming as much weed as they toked on-camera.
As the canna-story goes, Chong first smoked pot the same night he discovered Ornette Coleman; he dropped out of school the next day. Cheech’s first high corresponds directly to his introduction to throwing pottery on a wheel. Both burgeoning musicians, the soon-to-be inseparable buddies met in Vancouver, where their long careers began to form. Cheech, self-described Chicano and born and raised in Los Angeles, was there as a Vietnam War conscientious objector; Chong, a native Canadian of Chinese and Scottish-Irish descent, was playing for Bobby Taylor (who produced Jackson 5’s first album). Lou Adler facilitated their Hollywood record deal and, interestingly, shows up in the doc despite giving them a gnarly contract that created big income-loss. Archival footage of early talk show convos – including one with Geraldo Rivera and another from Playboy Mansion – coupled with childhood photos, animations, and clips of live music and movies all color the film.
Much of Last Movie is dedicated to the “plot” of these two groundbreaking artists, and I wish the film spent less runtime on a goofy script and more on creativity and external sources explaining their lasting impact on film and cannabis culture. Still, it’s a great watch, a radical time capsule to be cherished. “We’re brothers,” explained Cheech after the screening. “We’ve got each other’s backs to the end.” His partner in crime added, “There’s a whole new generation coming up and we appeal to the kids now – that’s incredible.”

Cheech and Chong’s Last Movie

Documentary Spotlight, World Premiere

March 12, Paramount Theatre

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