REVIEW: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of The Crystal Skull

Review will not spoil the BIG secret of the movie, but you’ve been warned regardless.

The thing about the Indiana Jones movies is, aside from the original “Raiders of The Lost Ark,” none of them have been ‘necessary.’ This isn’t like the “Star Wars” franchise, where each installment adds new information and beats to a continuing larger story – “Raiders” was a complete stand-alone film with nothing left undone or unsaid, and thus ALL the subsequent returns of the character have been essentially superfluous. “Temple of Doom” and “Last Crusade” don’t really have any (major) greater-truths to reveal or broader continuity to flesh out – fine films in their own right they may be – they exist simply because Indiana Jones and his world are fun to revisit.

Keeping that in perspective has been on my mind since it was first announced that Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford were going back to the character one more time. It’s not so much a lowering of expectations as it is an honest assessment. The now-legendary sense of deflation fans felt as the “Star Wars” prequels unfolded had to do with a genuine drop in quality: The original SW trilogy were both grandly-mounted films and the foundation of one of the great modern pop-cultural mythologies – a standard the prequels simply failed to live up to.

The two (now three) post-“Raiders” Indy movies are of a different breed: They’re romps; big showy collections of action and FX setpieces given a MASSIVE gravitas-injection by their connection to the original film… a summation that applies quite handily to the newest installment. I do suspect, though, that the nearly two-DECADES of wait between the previous sequel and this most-recent one may lead some to be expecting something that they really oughtn’t be – this just isn’t a series that’s going to lend itself to some final “deepening.” What we get from “Crystal Skull” is the same basic thing we got from “Temple” and “Crusade” – a cracking-good adventure flick with some excellent action beats, lifted from good to great by the presence of the iconic elements (hat, whip, snakes, John Williams’ score) from “Raiders.”

It’s actually surprisingly hard to “review” in any great detail WITHOUT getting into spoilers. Since the hype-machine was able to do all it needed to on the simple declaration that a new Indiana Jones movie was coming out, we’ve been spared the usual issue of having the whole movie given away in the trailers. Just describing what the titular Crystal Skull IS or what certain character’s relationships are would qualify as major reveals. Heck, the film’s OPENING SCENE involves the biggest moment of inter-sequel connectivity in the entire series, and segues moments later into a reveal that sends the story off in a direction so profoundly different from anything else in the series it’s rather jarring (honestly, I won’t be surprised if some audiences find how “out there” this installment gets to be just too much for them.)

In any case, the non-spoiler setup goes something like this: It’s now 1957, and Indy has spent the 19 years between finding the Holy Grail and “now” doing vaugely eluded-to military/spy work against The Russians. A few details of said work have garnered him the attention of Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett, modeling this years hot new look for professional dominatrixes with movie-buff clients) a Soviet agent and self-professed psychic hot on the trail of a legendary Mayan artifact called “The Crystal Skull” in the hope that it can be turned into a powerful “psychic weapon.” Spalko’s harassments eventually put Indy into contact with young greaser Mutt Williams (Shia LeBouf) who was told to get Dr. Jones’ help rescuing his mother and a professor pal of Indy’s (John Hurt) both of who have been kidnapped by the Reds. From there on, Act 2 is combination old/young buddy movie and detective story as Indy and Mutt bond while chasing down clues one step behind Spalko and try to figure out what’s REALLY going on with the Skull.

After that, the MAJOR SPOILERS start up again force and don’t let up – but all you really need to know is that this IS an Indiana Jones movie and thus the third act is a series of extended action/chase scenes followed by a big light-show. The majority of it works tremendously, especially a multi-vehicle race/brawl and an appearance by some nasty insects; while some of it borders on the silly (a cliff-jump gag and a vine-swing scene are a bit much) but it’s never boring and the staging – while a bit too reliant on CGI – is top shelf. Nobody does this stuff like Steven Spielberg, nobody.

Thing is, there’s really no way of telling whether or not this film would be as much fun as it is sans the iconic characters and the music, but that’s not really a functional question. What it boils down to is that the film delivers another big, fun adventure with Indiana Jones. That’s the only standard it needed to meet, and I consider it met. Now go see it so you can find out all the stuff I couldn’t talk about.


"Mummy 3" Teaser

Uh… Wow?

Exclusive: 'The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor' Trailer
Exclusive: ‘The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor’ Trailer

So… Despite the fact that I unappologetically enjoy the two previous “Mummy” movies, the prospect of doing another one this many years later – Without Arnold Vosloo OR Rachel Weisz or even Patricia Velasquez returning AND the dubious prospect of seeing the great Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh (as the new Chinese version of The Mummy and the new Chinese version of The Person Who Tells Brendan Fraser About The Mummy, respectively) use up what a portion of what time is left of their physically-primed action hero years on a threequel from the director of “The Fast & The Furious” – didn’t exactly have me in an anticipatory mood.

…And then they did this trailer. Not bad at all. Hollywood, quick primer on how to get me to reverse my negatives about an unreleased movie: Rampaging Yeti? Three-headed Dragon?? Yup, that’ll do it. Also of interest – it now appears they’re setting Li’s mummified Chinese Emperor to be the builder of The Great Wall, which would make him (historically) Emperor Qin; i.e. the same figure Li’s character in “Hero” was attempting to assassinate.

REVIEW: Speed Racer (2008)

With the first of multiple generations for whom merchandise-as-entertainment was fully an unironic, accepted part of youthful days coming to adulthood, reclaimed-nostalgia is BIG business in the world of Hollywood property-aquisition. Comic book superheroes who (mostly) originated in the 60s or earlier now occupy the lavishly-exalted place that Biblical Epics did in the showbiz of yesterday, and kitschy Saturday Morning fair of the 60s, 70s and 80s fill the shoes of popular-fiction adaptation – Stan Lee and Frank Miller as the new Lloyd C. Douglas (“The Robe,”) and Hannah Barberra as the new Daphne DuMaurier. Each new adaptation comes with higher and higher expectations, not just from investors and new audiences but from longtime fans hoping NOT ONLY for the movies to “live up” to the material they cherish but for it to make it as good for them NOW as they remember it being. It’s not just a movie ticket they’re buying, it’s a $10.50 pair of rose-colored glasses to look back on happier times for a little over 90 minutes.

And make no mistake, it’s a gamble: For every “Spider-Man” that successfully translates the spirit of it’s foundation, there’s a “Thunderbirds” that retroactively calls into question the very worth of it’s own progenitor. But how, exactly, is one to approach a nostalgia product for material who’s nostalgiac worth is hugely based on irony – i.e. when the primary reason something is remembered is for NOT being all that good? This is the quandry which was going to face whichever filmmaker(s) finally took the reins of producer Joel Silver’s long-gestating adaptation of “Speed Racer.”

One of the earliest examples of what’s now called Anime (Japanese animation) to make an impact stateside, the original “Speed Racer” was a re-edited, extra-loose translation of “Go Mifune,” a Japanese series that applied a native Manga-nese polish to the then-popular Western-import genre of auto-racing potboilers. As “Speed,” it transfixed American kids of the 60s with it’s crafty, convoluted narrative – at the time only “Jonny Quest” could match it for psuedo-serious cartoon plotting – but gained it’s lasting impact as a post-modern hipster touchstone ironically appreciated for it’s pop-art awkwardness and stilted, poorly-dubbed English dialogue. So, what we’re ultimately looking at here is a literal-adaptation of a mis-translation of a genre-reworking. So it somehow makes since that the final product comes courtesy of the Wachowski’s, who’ve had a similarly strange career trajectory – having gone from the edgy indie lesbian noir “Bound” to the landmark “Matrix” action blockbusters only to land now in the world of the Family Film.

You can call the film they’ve offered up in “Speed Racer” many things, but one word can’t be denied: Visionary. The term need not be a negative or a positive, it’s merely a descriptive indicating how singular, purposeful and personal the work on display appears to be: This is an unrestrained, uncompromised pop-art vision from start to finish, and it doesn’t just feel like the Wachowski’s most self-revealing, inwardly-powered film in almost a decade – it could easily be the most “auteur” blockbuster since “Lord of The Rings.” The Hollywood of the moment – the Hollywood where Christopher Nolan packs Batman movies with Academy Award winners, where Robert Downey Jr. and Nicholas Cage are action heroes and where a “red-hot” screenwriter is sought out to pen “Street Fighter” based on his drafts for “Voltron” and “He-Man” – is one where the traditional barriers between high-art and lowly-commercialism have been dashed to pulp, and “Speed Racer” is The Moment purified: It’s Andy Warhol painting a mural of Sonic the Hedgehog on the walls of the Parthenon.

Unfolding in a universe just slightly too fanciful to be called “futuristic” where, among other oddities, ultra high-tech Auto Racing seems to be the single most popular sporting/cultural event in existence, the narrative is built around simple characters in a complicated world: Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is the middle scion of the aptly-named, auto-centric Racer Family. Pops (John Goodman) is the one-man car-building wizard behind The Mach 5, a supercar with which Speed shares a zen-like man/machine bond and the trunk of which is frequently the hiding place of mischievous youngest son Sprittle and pet chimp Chim-Chim, while Mom (Susan Sarandon) keeps the garage humming on a steady supply of home-made pancakes. Also on hand is Trixie (Christina Ricci) Speed’s helicopter-pilot girlfriend.

The whole family-unit revolves around Speed’s career driving the Mach 5 in the hyper-competitive World Racing League, who’s tracks resemble nothing so much as Hot Wheels strips encompassing entire continents. He’s a man on a mission, driving not just for glory but to restore honor to the Racer family name after his beloved older brother Rex perished in a feiry crash amid allegations of shady doings years ago. Speed’s success and the Racers’ adamant refusal to become a corporate-sponsored race team places the family into bitter conflict with Royalton (Roger Hallam) an automotive tycoon who reveals that the WRL is actually a wholly-corrupt front used by robber-barons to manipulate the stock market and promises to make things VERY unpleasant for Speed if he doesn’t play along. At the same time, this gains Speed an ally in the person of enigmatic Racer X (Matthew Fox) a masked, leather-clad vigilante who uses his racing skills to combat corporate crime and who strikes Speed as awfully familiar…

ALL of this, just so you know, is played 100% straight. Save for the slapstick antics of Sprittle and Chim-Chim (who, for the record, are about as annoying as you either imagine or recall) the film takes it’s setting, story, characters and message totally at face value. The visual style – employing a candy-colored rainbow design asthetic, mimickry of Anime-style scene transitions and digitally-tweaked photography that seems to make everything appear in-focus regardless of depth-of-field – and the apparent direction of some actors (Fox and Hallam, in particular) to deliver their lines with the machine-gun statacco of 60s voice-dub actors – indicate that the Wachowskis are more than aware of how ridiculous the original “Speed” was AND their literal translation of it still is, but tonally any condescension is completely muted: A sitcom-perfect 1950s nuclear family team with an activist superhero to help bring down a stock-fixing cartel with by winning auto races… and the whole thing is played with the gravity and matter-of-fact import you usually only find in the third act of a Jesus Movie.

The whole point of the thing is visual insanity: Taking the most surreal conceits of the Wachowski’s belovedly-fetishized Anime fixation and translating them to live-action. Most movies that attempt a kind of universally-unreal construction (think “300” or “Sin City”) make an effort to DEFY reality, but here any such defiance happened before the curtain went up: “Speed Racer” obliterates reality in it’s opening moments and careens ahead without any regard for what “ought to be” plausible: Unlike the excerable “Transformers,” which took a similarly out-there cartoon creation and reduced it to generic dumbass-pandering action piffle, here’s a film that takes the broad strokes of the singularly-loathsome post-“Fast & The Furious” car-fetish genre and turns it into a expressionistic art piece.

At one point, when a Royalton crony vows to “take out” the Racers and the eventual result is a pitched battle between the whole family and a team of Ninjas, by that then it seems like the most logical thing in the world. The cars don’t just race and crash, they FIGHT like extensions of their human pilots: At one point, a driver (who also happens to be a Viking, just for the record) deploys a massive pair of chained-maces and cartwheels his vehicle through the air to swing them; and when Speed hits his zen-master “one-ness” with the Mach-5, the visuals unmistakably call to mind “2001’s” final transformative plunge – “My God… it’s full of Cars!!!”

But beyond the visual assault, what’s perhaps more bizzare is the collision going in the realm of sensibilities. Thematically, the Wachowski’s are still very much in the mode of “The Matrix” or “V For Vendetta” (which they produced) – fists raised, screaming “FIGHT THE POWER!!!” and reveling in the spectacle of The System crumbling at the rise of a messianic hero and his band of Rebel Outsiders. But whereas Neo found prison in the sterile conformity of the ordinary and freedom in the edgy company of leather-clad fetish-club superheroes, Speed’s evil-to-defy is Cynicism Incarnate (“Naive boy! Grow up!” spits Royalton frequently at his young nemesis) and his support-system of free-minded uber-rebels are… well, “The Cleavers,” basically.

It’s a conceit so brazenly out-there it can’t help but be charming. In meshing their peculiar sense of the Heroic Journey with the sincere desire to craft an unironic Family Film, the Wachowski’s have fashioned a world where iconic, almost kitschy tableaus like the Big Family Breakfast or Helpin’ Dad In the Garage are something like the defiant acts of fiercely-independent social rebels – Ozzie & Harriett as Morpheus and Trinity, PB&J and cold milk as the Red Pill and the White Rabbit, Norman Rockwell as Diego Rivera. And, so far as I can tell, it WORKS: Amid the preposterous car-stunts and the convoluted conspiracy story there’s a shockingly old-fashioned family dynamic here that carries a real since of genuine heart. Part of this, admittedly, is casting – could you ASK for a better Archetypal Mom n’ Pop than Susan Sarandon and John Goodman?

All of this, I realize, doesn’t really answer the fundamental question of whether it’s “good” or not. It’s a FASCINATING work of art, that much I can’t find any reasonable dispute for, but it’s definately not going to be something everyone can get their head around or even enjoy AFTER they get their head around it. Speaking only for myself, I found it dazzling, dizzying and occasionally even moving in a corny but affectingly-familiar way. The plain fact of the matter is, the Wachowski’s are here rebuilding the very notions of what an “action movie” OR “family movie” can or should be, and since it so frequently leaps into wholly-new territory it’s hard to really gauge how it’s all “working.” Heck, for all I really know it’s an incredibly-interesting total failure… but I just don’t get that vibe as of right now. I CAN most-definately say that it absolutely needs to be seen, for the one of the best reasons I can think of to see anything: Because you’ve never anything quite like it before. Reccomended.

FINAL RATING: 7/10 (I think.)

The Marvel announcement

WARNING: Major “Iron Man” spoiler follows (though how much longer this can remain a surprise is very much in doubt) so be warned.

So, “Iron Man” sold in the area of $100 Million dollars in tickets, exceeding it’s boxoffice expectations by about 30-40 mil and basically putting a big “Take Us Seriously” sign on the new Marvel Studios. That’s the business news. For fans, the biggest POSSIBLE news came after the credits, when those prescient enough to sit through the credits saw an extra scene in which Samuel L. Jackson – playing the “Ultimate Marvel” version of Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., shows up at Tony Stark’s house to talk to him about something called “THE AVENGERS INITIATIVE.”


For those for whom that doesn’t have much meaning, “The Avengers” are Marvel’s premier superhero team; boasting a rotating roster of members that usually starts out including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Ant-Man/Giant-Man and The Incredible Hulk. You may notice that that list ALSO neatly comprises the roster of Marvel characters who have films either in release or production under the singular “Marvel Studios” banner. So the question is, is this just MASSIVE optimism on Marvel’s part, or are this summer’s “Iron Man” and “Hulk” movies part of a long-term plan.

As of today, Marvel has an answer:

Short version: “Iron Man 2” and “Thor” in 2010, followed by “The First Avenger: Captain America” and 2011 and “The Avengers” after that. Regarding the titling of those last two: In general Marvel continuity, Captain America is a WWII-era superhero who finds himself trapped in suspended animation just before the end of the war and is later revived in modern times, where he joins and becomes de-facto field leader of The Avengers; so the titling there could concievably indicate that Cap would debut in a WWII-set film of his own and then turn up time-displaced in the “Avengers” movie… which is almost too cool to contemplate.


Miyamoto is NUMBER ONE!


Last year, Shigeru Miyamoto – creator of the Super Mario Bros. and the father and modern video games – made his debut appearance on the Time Magazine Online voting poll for “most influential person of the year” and eventually came in at #9. Well, this year’s results are in and for the 2008 Online Poll “Shiggy” took the NUMBER ONE SPOT! Beating out both Stephen Colbert and his arch-rival Korean pop star Rain. Kickass.

REVIEW: Iron Man

WARNING: Mild spoilers contained herein.

First things first: Comic-fans, hardcore nerds, geeks and fans and devotees of all stripes, listen carefully: Jarvis. Ten Rings. S.H.I.E.L.D. You talked. Somebody listened. Get your asses to the theatre, NOW. And for fuck’s sake, STAY THROUGH THE CREDITS. Just trust me.

Now, then…

The recent spate of superhero movies have found much of their success by mining concept of the hero as downtrodden-outsider, i.e. “Spider-Man” or “X-Men.” Fine franchises all, but a little of that goes a long way in movie after movie. A big part of what makes “Iron Man” feel so fresh (and it does, make no mistake about it) is that, despite his obligatory “costume” and semi-secret identity, leading man Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) belongs to a different era of heroes: The much older tradition of jack-of-all-trades genius/adventurers like Doc Savage. And while I’ve certainly no problem with the “protecting those who fear them” set, variety IS the spice of life.

Whereas most superheroes, by design, are average-or-lower fellows who spring to colorful life as their alter-egos, Stark enters the movie as just about the most interesting guy alive: A billionaire engineering-genius/weapons-magnate who collects/builds classic cars, invents world-changing inventions for kicks and tears through women, parties and booze like a one-man Rat Pack: The interior of his private jet morphs into a private strip-club at his command, complete with flight-attendants who double as dancers. And yet, while smug and self-satisfied to a fault, he has a certain sincerity: He genuinely believes in his weapons as forces to END wars and PROTECT the American soldiers who use them.

It’s a balancing act with precious little time to set-up, but what you’ve heard about Downey knocking it out of the park are BEYOND true: His Tony Stark is the coolest man on the planet before he even THINKS about becoming Iron Man – in an origin story that hews fairly close to the originals comics save for swapping-out then-topical Vietnam for now-topical Afghanistan, where Stark goes to show off a new super-missile for a grateful U.S. Army. A Terrorist ambush – using Stark Brand explosives – leaves him with a heart full of lethal shrapnel, but a quick-fix battery-powered life support device saves him: The Terrorists (obviously meant to suggest Al Qaeda but who’s name and who’s Ghengis Khan-obsessed leader are there to get attentive fans giggling with anticipation of “Iron Man 2,”) want him alive to turn all the Stark Industries weaponry they’ve managed to aquire (and, he learns, USE on innocent victims) into something more substantial. Instead, he builds himself a suit of weaponry-loaded mechanical armor and blasts his way to freedom.

In the comics, Stark then dedicated himself to fighting the Red Menace in his newly-upgraded armor as Iron Man. Since thats obviously not going to work here, and since the film handily demonstrates (in a pair of action sequences that’ll be running on Blu-Ray Player demo-loops at Best Buy into the next CENTURY) that Al Qaeda cave-dwellers aren’t much of a match for a walking/flying human tank, the modern Iron Man has a spiffy new goal to go along with the new special effects: Infuriated that the weapons he intended to be used for good are in the hands of warmongers and terrorists, he shuts down the munitions plants and aims to take the stray arms out of evil’s grasp by force; a new life-direction that confounds his Pentagon liason buddy Jim Rhodes (Terrence Howard) and Moneypenny-esque assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and infuriates his scheming corporate “ally” Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges.) It also garners the attention of Agent Colson (Clarke Gregg) a representative of a government agency with a rather unwieldy name who’s initials will be partly responsible for the uncontrollable cheering you’ll be hearing from the fan-clusters. Hm…

Yeah. It’s innevitable that most reviews you’ll be reading for this on the web are going to be pretty deeply drowned-out by the fan-ecstasy over what appears to be the very real setup for several HUGE down-the-pike dream projects; but non-fans should NOT let that scare them away. These are details for the in-the-know, not the meat of the subject. The film itself is a smart and complex animal, a “grownup” superhero movie in every sense of the word. In a way, it plays out as less of an action film (truth be told, there are really only THREE major “battle” scenes) and closer to the sort of deliberately-paced scifi-augmented techno-thriller one expects from, say, Michael Crichton: Comforted by the awesomeness of it’s action bookends, the crucial middle act concentrates on universe-building and character-fleshing; dwelling in welcome detail on the methods with which Stark assembles and tests the Iron Man technology and on he and Pepper’s gradual realization of something resembling mutual-affection.

This is a movie that’s built of self-assuredness. Downey plays Stark as a guy who’s every virtue AND flaw can be attributed to a confidence in his abilities, and it bleeds over into the rest of the film: It never seems to be straining to fit in extra action scenes, it knows the ones it has are dynamite. Even most of it’s fanboy references are handled the same way: Winking, offhand nods to followups that the film seems QUITE sure are going to happen.

It’s this confidence of vision that seemingly enables the film to overcome an impossible hurdle: Making a fun summer action blockbuster grounded heavily in War on Terror happenings. The film wears what political bent it has (Terrorism: bad, America: good, War: depends on the wager) on it’s sleeve but pitches for a wider audience: A truly spectacular sequence where Iron Man descends from the sky and rescues an Afghan village from terrorist pillagers could be read equally-well as a neocon fantasy of “peace through superior firepower” or a liberal “proper-use of influence abroad” parable. Bottom line, I don’t care WHAT your politics are – seeing hordes of Al Qaeda types getting smacked around like ragdolls by a power-armored supehero ought to be something we can all get behind.

If this is the movie that “opens” the Summer Season, it’s setting a REALLY high bar in terms of overall satisfaction. Fans are getting a movie that’s eager to please, and non-fans can look forward to a genre effort that stands comfortably next to “Batman Begins” and “Spider-Man” in the best-of-the-best.


Oh, and once again: Seriously, STAY THROUGH THE CREDITS. You won’t be sorry.

REVIEW: Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay

Probably the most “shocking” element of the purported “war on terror satire” in “H&K2” is how unconcerned the actual movie is about making it shocking. Yes, the film features (among other elements) an Indian man morphing into a turban-headed terrorist in the eyes of a panicky airline passenger, sexual-abuse of inmates at the titular prison and an ignorant, racist Homeland Security agent (Rob Cordry) who “tortures” a black suspect by threatening to pour out a can of grape soda and – literally – wipes his ass with the 5th Ammendment; but it regards them as being essentially no more or less perilous to the heroes as the myriad non-political roadblocks also thrown in their way. The film takes some of the most divisive “hot button” issues of our time and tosses them off with the same slacker-ly ease it does reliable road-movie/stoner gags about rednecks, hookers, KKK members, bad drugs and misbehaving animals. Call it the height of bad taste or the subtlest form of subversion, but I call it pretty funny.

The original “Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle” got on by taking things easy: Road comedy is easy, because you can just go from location to location and joke to joke. Stoner comedy is easy because it allows for random lunacy. And it cast as it’s dual leads Kal Penn (Kumar) and John Cho (Harold,) both of whom had made their bones as sidekicks and were well-equipped for a film that relied on neither shoving their way to the forefront. Even the central hook of doing a mainstream comedy with TWO “ethnic” leads went down easy, as casual-racism turns out to be just something the pair ‘deal with’ no different than random cougars or bad trips. #2 offers up more of the same.

It’s (literally) mere hours after the climax the first film, and the duo are heading off to Amsterdam in pursuit of Harold’s recently near-consumated crush. En-route, they encounter Kumar’s former girlfriend – on her way to marrying a rich, politically-connected douchebag in Texas. A misunderstanding on the plane involving Kumar’s attempt to field-test his newly-invented “smokeless bong” gets them branded as terror-suspects, and the assignment of Cordry’s overzealous agent to their case means a one-way ticket to Gitmo. Fortunately for the boys, the prison’s security systems leaves a little something to be desired and – one satisfyingly-electrocuted Al Qaeda fellow later – they’re hoofing it to Texas, hoping that the aforementioned Douchebag can use his White House connections to fix the misunderstanding… and Kumar giving more than a little thought to busting up the wedding and getting The Girl back.

The model at play here is much more Hope & Crosby than Cheech & Chong, as the stoner humor is basically an excuse to play fast and loose with the rules of logic and pacing. The REAL star-attraction is the natural, beat-for-beat chemistry between the two leads as they bounce from one outlandish situation to another. Despite some of the topical subject matter, it’s not really out to take anyone down or score any points, which winds up being helpful because you can’t precisely predict which direction the jokes are going to go in: For example, the trailers have already spoiled the fact that the boys eventually encounter President Bush (an impersonator in heavy makeup) himself, few would’ve guessed the way the film opts to portray him and what role he ultimately plays.

It’s funny, basically.