SXSW 2024: Clemente, Cheech & Chong’s Last Movie, This is a Movie About the Black Keys | Festivals & Awards
Movie Reviews

SXSW 2024: Clemente, Cheech & Chong’s Last Movie, This is a Movie About the Black Keys | Festivals & Awards

That film is David Altrogge’s “Clemente,” a loving ode to one of the most impressive and important athletes of all time. Robert Clemente was the first Latin-American to win an MVP, a World Series MVP, and be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He shattered the color barrier in a way that still resonates across all sports to this day. It was kind of perfectly appropriate to watch this movie on the same day I was downloading the latest edition of Sony’s “The Show,” which has on its cover the great Vladimir Guerrero Jr., one of many Latin-American athletes following in Clemente’s giant footsteps, and continuing his legacy in the way they’re changing the game.

“Clemente” spends enough time on the field and in the clubhouse for baseball nuts, focusing a great deal of time on the historic 1971 World Series, the one in which Clemente’s Pirates came back down two games against one of the most impressive teams of all time in the ’71 Baltimore Orioles. That he would be dead just over a year later, perished in a plane crash while trying to take emergency supplies to Nicaragua, was unimaginable to his millions of fans.

The baseball stuff is fun-but-familiar—it’s in the humanizing of Clemente that Altrogge’s film really succeeds. Not only does he get warm interviews from Clemente’s sons, he speaks to the fans that Roberto interacted with in ways they’ll forget. There’s an amazing story from a woman whose father drove Clemente after the team left him because he was taking too long signing autographs—their families became friends for life. Richard Linklater, who also produced the film, shares how he used to send photos to his favorite athletes in the hope of getting a signature. Clemente wrote back. He would just show up at children’s hospitals because he knew his presence could do some good. One might say “Clemente” is a piece of hagiography, but it feels like this is a guy who deserves it. As someone says in the film, “Everything about him was royalty.” Let him wear the crown placed on his head by the movie that bears his name.

There are no crowns being handed out in David Bushell’s “Cheech & Chong’s Last Movie,” a detailed history of the early lives and partnership of two of the most famous comedians of their generation: Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin. Both gentlemen come off splendidly, particularly in a series of conversational scenes as they drive through a desert talking about their friendship and sometimes-contentious partnership. There are times when some of these scenes feel a bit stagey, especially as the pair gets into fights about their eventual break-up, and I longed for a bit more context about Cheech & Chong’s impact on comedy—ethnicity is oddly avoided for most of the project, which is a mistake given how many doors these guys opened and how their unique, cultural voice is one of the reasons they became so popular. Having said that, this is certainly an easy watch, the kind of thing that I suspect will pop on a service like Hulu later this year.

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