The classic handicap of any “stoner comedy” is the expectations the filmmakers often put on the audience. If you’re coming to a stoner comedy, what you want out of it and what they need out of you is kind of…baked in.
Ask Dave Chapelle.
So as hopeful as one might be that the phrase “kick ass kung fu kush comedy” might be deployed when considering the screwy charms of “The Smoke Master,” that’s over-selling it — by a bit, if you’re inhaling whilst watching it, by a lot if you’re not.
It’s a spoof of old school (’70s vintage) Honk Kong kung-fu quest thrillers of the Bruce Lee era. A lot of characters you might not expect to know and speak Chinese mull over “The Three Generations Curse” and fear The Triads.
But it’s Brazilian, which is funny. And the non-native Chinese speakers sound like they’re going at it phonetically. Which is funny. The Brazilian hero must travel to find “The Smoke Master” and learn the martial arts of cannabis kung fu, in Chinese or Portuguese with English subtitles.
“When the smoke surrounds you, you can touch and feel the whole universe!” “When you release the smoke, you BECOME the smoke!”
Who’re you quoting, oh great teacher? Confucius? Bruce Lee?
The brawls are entertaining as well. But, if you’ll pardon the pun, far too much of this farce is nothing more than a drag. And I’m not talking about the cute trick of having the actor who plays The Smoke Master (Tony Lee) also play a dragon lady empress of the Triads.
Daniel (Thiago Stechinni) and Gabriel (Daniel Rocha) are brother martial artists in São Paulo, minding their own business, studying with Master Abel (Cléber Colombo) and enjoying the occasional joint, when all these Euro-accented or English-speaking hoodlums start in on them.
The Triads have been Westernized, another Bruce Lee era touch — having Occidental villains.
A prologue hints at what might be going on, something totally out of their hands. Back in the early ’70s, their martial arts and marijuana-loving ancestor was betrayed and hit with The Three Generations Curse. No male in their family will live past 27 for three generations!
Does the hulking gang leader Caine (Tristan Aronovich) know or care about this? Probably not. He’s just into busting heads and ruling the local underworld via his fists and feet and those of his minions.
When the more-skilled and far taller Daniel takes on most of Caine’s gang and is hospitalized for his trouble, it is up to callow Gabriel to travel to into the boondocks, asking everyone he knows, “Do you know where ‘The Smoke Master’ lives?”
Once they meet and the kid is rejected until he passes a persistence test to show he’s serious, the training begins. The training turns out to be more about mastering Mary Jane and her friends than martial arts. The pupil must learn to use the smoke and BE the smoke — and help finish off this bazooka-sized blunt and then master the munchies — before he’s ready to go home and set wrong things right.
“The smoke goes wherever it pleases.”
Most of the players take this all ever-to-seriously, which should produce more laughs than it does. But I cackled more at a few bits of out-and-out buffoonery, the stoner student clowns Zuang and Zhan, the obligatory “cat fight” throw down in the middle of the Big Finale.
Almost everything about this one hints at a funnier movie than “Smoke” turns out to be, from the goofy, Home Shopping Network show (or PBS grilling series) title to clouds of exhalations that decorate many scenes that aren’t as amusing as the filmmakers seem to think.
“The worst kind of blind mind is the one who smokes and does not inhale!”
It turns out, “inhaling” is a precondition for appreciating this.
Rating: Unrated, violence, sexual situations, profanity, and lots and lots of “lighting up.”
Cast: Daniel Rocha, Tony Lee, Thiago Stechinni, Luana Frez, Michelle Rodrigues and Cléber Colombo
Credits: Scripted and directed by Andre Sigwalt and Augusto Soares. A Raven Banner release.
Running time: 1:43