Control Nathan Rabin 4.0 #50 Far Out Man (1990)
Welcome, friends, to the latest entry in Control Nathan Rabin 4.0. It’s the site and career-sustaining column where I give YOU, the ferociously sexy, intimidatingly brilliant Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place patron, an opportunity to choose a movie that I must watch, and then write about, in exchange for a one-time, one hundred dollar pledge. The price goes down to seventy-five dollars for each additional selection.
This is a landmark entry for a column that has helped keep the lights on and the children fed. We’ve reached FIFTY entries. That can ONLY mean one thing. That’s right, I’m talking about the decorated general of G-Unit, Mr. Get Rich or Die Tryin’ Himself. We can only be discussing the man who DESTROYED Ja Rule’s career back when that meant something, decimating the once-popular gangsta crooner and Fyre Festival figurehead with appropriately fiery, legendary diss tracks like “Wanksta” and “Back Down.”
For the landmark 50th entry in Control Nathan Rabin, we’re up “In Da Club” with some straight up P.I.M.Ps. We’re in the “Candy Shop” with a man too badass to be killed by mere bullets, Dr. Dre and Eminem’s wildly successful and crazily controversial protege 50 Cent, AKA Curtis Jackson, who you might remember from such films as Caught in the Crossfire, Dead Man Running and Before I Self-Destruct and such video games as 50 Cent: Bulletproof and 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand.
What beautiful synchronicity it would be to write about a 50 Cent movie for the 50th entry of this wondrous column that has brought me even closer to you, reader and patron, by affording me an opportunity to do your perverse bidding in exchange for the money that keeps this dream of a site afloat and in business.
Unfortunately, no one has ever chosen a 50 Cent movie for Control Nathan Rabin 4.0 and, let’s be honest, nobody will on account of all of his films sucking in a much different fashion than the movies I’ve written about for this column.
So we’re bidding 50, beautiful, impish, playful 50, a fond farewell for the moment and also probably for eternity as well so we can focus on a movie that has absolutely nothing to do with 50 Cent: the 1990 Tommy Chong vehicle Far Out Man, in which Chong portrays the titular character, Far Out Man, a hippie space cadet and something of a stoner opposite wife Shelby, daughter Rae Dawn, son Paris and even onetime son-in-law C. Thomas Howell.
Far Out Man feels like the product of Tommy Chong keeping a journal throughout his years with Cheech of half-formed bits that don’t quite qualify as jokes or gags, like a man at a country western bar riding atop a large Native American man as if he were a bucking bronco. That’s not quite a sight gag but it obviously must have amused Chong enough to put it in a script and now, for reasons known only to Chong and his curious muse, Chong spends a very small part of Far Out Man riding a Native American gentleman as if he were a steed.
It sure feels like Chong opened up the old gag cabinet for his first solo vehicle as writer, director and star but all that tumbled out was a bunch of warmed-over nonsense.
Far Out Man got hit by a Rolls Royce but get this—he was too freaking baked to even feel anything—and made, like, a shit ton of money in the process. And then he opened up this theme park called Hippy Land. We learn about Hippy Land through an animated rap sequence involving a magical stoner wonderland with attractions like a magical bong ride and a roller coaster that allows thrill seekers to experience what life might be like inside an enormous metallic Jimi Hendrix’s penis and testicles.
Like everything else in the film, this must have struck Chong as funny at some point but it’s not entirely clear why. At times Chong’s commitment to half-assedness borders on heroic. Halfway through the film, for example, Far Out Man is driving to a gig in a truck and in danger of snoozing when Cheech Marin shows up and is all, “Hey, don’t fall asleep!” And Chong is all, “Hey, you’re Cheech, what’re you doing in this movie?” and Cheech is all, “I dunno. I got production meetings all over town. I’m not even supposed to be here” and then he’s gone.
Even Chong’s weed-poisoned brain had to realize that the Cheech cameo would be the most scrutinized and anticipated sequence in the whole stupid fucking film. Even someone who enjoys the deplorable practice of smoking marijuana the way Chong does had to understand that the first question most people would have about a post-break-up Tommy Chong vehicle would be “Hey, is Cheech in it?”
Yet the best this legendary comedy team, these household name improvisers could come up with was a rando half joke about the auteur’s old partner popping up out of nowhere and leaving just as abruptly and nonsensically in a cameo where Cheech pops up out of nowhere and leaves just as inexplicably and nonsensically.
I haven’t been so insulted by what Cheech and Chong think passes for collaboration and teamwork since they performed at the Gathering of the Juggalos a few years back, and their set consisted almost entirely of them doing solo bits so old and stale they made George Carlin’s “hippie weatherman” routine look like “The 7 words you can’t say on television” by comparison.
At some point in his charmed life this genial idiot became separated from soulmate Tree (the director’s real-life wife and frequent collaborator Shelby Chong, a sort of stoner Goldie Hawn minus the talent) and son Kyle (Tommy’s real-life son Paris) so he sets out to find them after opportunistic psychiatrist Dr. Leddledick (Martin Mull) hypnotizes him into being a roadie.
Far Out Man is full of gags that are not funny, but are kind of cute, like Mull turning to the camera after hypnotizing Far Out Man and telling the audience “You will like this film. You will tell a friend” or the opening credits describing Far Out Man as a “Tommy Chong Attempt” as opposed to a “Tommy Chong Film.” You want to pat these cute little jokes on the head approvingly and give them points for trying even if they’re never, you know, funny.
In a weird Freudian twist, the director cast C. Thomas Howell, who was briefly married to his daughter Rae Dawn, as his real-life wife Shelby’s narcissistic movie-star boyfriend and a pompous father figure to his real-life son Paris.
Casting the B or C list Brat Packer as an egomaniacal boob way too impressed by his own modest level of fame is a typically cute, if obvious gag but Far Out Man ekes some genuine laughter out of it through sheer bloody repetition.
Late in the film Howell meets fellow movie star Judd Nelson and is horrified to discover that the Breakfast Club bad boy has no idea who he is, or even that he is an actor. Howell, who previously tried to impress a cop by asking “Haven’t you seen Soul Man? I am the black dude in Soul Man!” is so appalled that he pretty much rattles off his entire IMDB listing for a deeply unimpressed Nelson. By the time Howell gets down to asking Nelson if he’s seen Grandview USA or is shrinking down to illustrate that he was shorter when he starred as Ponyboy in The Outsiders I was legitimately laughing at this dumb running joke in a dumb pot joke of a movie.
Far Out Man brazenly asks, “Why can’t a movie just be a bunch of random crap in no particular order?,” then proceeds to provide a ramshackle, moderately unsatisfying satisfying answer to its own question.
Movies certainly can be random hodgepodges of this and that lazily slapped together with near-total contempt for story and character, as Far Out Man is, but then they aren’t much of a movie, are they?
Far Out Man is barely a movie. It’s a cross between The Chong Family Baked to the Gills Variety Hour, the loosest, sloppiest and most half-assed variety special ever half-conceived in a stoned haze, and a home movie with a plot and series of celebrity cameos from the likes of Paul Bartel and the Guy From the Police Academy Movies Who Makes Funny Noises With His Mouth but that does not mean that it does not matter to some people.
Far Out Man matters to Chong, obviously. Far Out Man is a pure vanity project, a movie by, for and about Tommy Chong and his family but it also obviously made an impression on the patron who suggested it. Was that because they were high out of their mind on the devil’s lettuce when they saw Far Out Man? Probably. To keep them from spreading their poison to the innocent I’ve given their contact information to the DEA. They should be expecting a visit from a SWAT team sometime this afternoon.
Far Out Man does not matter in any conceivable way. And yet it must have made some impact of someone is willing to pay one hundred dollars to have some dude on the internet revisit it. That’s the magic of Control Nathan Rabin 4.0. These weird, rando movies are somehow important to y’all and because I spend a solid day watching them and writing about them and finding images for them they become important to me as well.
You infect me with your weird obsessions the same way that I infect you with mine and in the process this strange, precious website becomes something rare and wonderful: a true collaboration.
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