200 Cigarettes: Silly NYE Fun

The movie theater was packed as my friends and I walked down the aisle looking for seats. It was February of 1999, my junior year of high school. We were going to see 200 Cigarettes, a movie that is based around several characters as they navigate through New Year’s Eve in New York City in 1981. I imagine that the studio who produced the film released it after the holiday season because films tend to get lost in the shuffle during that time, and they wanted their movie to have a fighting chance. Don’t let the packed theater I went to fool you, though. The film was pretty much considered a flop, and many critics did not like it.

I remember watching the movie for that first time and feeling slightly underwhelmed and disappointed. This movie was made during the time when MTV was still relevant. The reason why I bring this up is because many of the big-name stars in the film were popular pop culture figures during that time, and they more than likely hit up TRL to promote the movie. Ben Affleck, Courtney Love, Paul Rudd, and Christina Ricci were big celebrities to the generation that the movie was marketed towards, specifically, people that were in their late teens to mid-twenties. It was no surprise to see a movie theater that was full of young faces, myself included, eagerly anticipating seeing their favorite celebrities on screen in a film that was overly-hyped by the machine. As the credits rolled when the film had finished, I felt like it was kind of a waste of money. My friends were equally disappointed.

The basic plot is that there are multiple pairs of characters that are trying to find the ultimate New Year’s Eve party to attend. Most of the characters are pre-gaming elsewhere because they don’t want to arrive too early to the party, which is driving the host of the party that everyone eventually ends up at bonkers. As the different characters navigate their way around NYC, avoiding Times Square and that shit show, they encounter all kinds of comedic problems that are funneling them towards this one, big bash. The ensemble cast is full of familiar faces, along with some then unknowns. Throw in a rocking soundtrack, some great costume designs, a cameo by Elvis Costello, and you have yourself a silly New Year’s Eve movie.

The standout character is Dave Chappelle, who plays an advice giving, disco loving cabbie. In fact, his character is simply named “Disco Cabbie” in the credits. Many of the characters end up in the back of his cab as they are dealing with different situations: a date gone bad, love and breakup advice, mending friendships, etc. As he drives the characters to and from their different destinations, Chappelle and his delivery of the lines brings a chuckle to the audience.

It wasn’t until years later that I watched the movie again. I was bumming around the house and saw that it was playing on one of the movie channels. I figured it was worth another watch, and I ended up enjoying it. It’s not the best movie, but it’s kind of campy and fun. It’s an easy watch if you’re just hanging out at home in that week between Christmas and New Year’s. Maybe I enjoy it now because I feel a sense of nostalgia for my teen years, or maybe it’s because some of the storylines are a bit more relevant to me now that I’m older. Whatever it is, I have now made it a holiday tradition to watch this movie as I head into the New Year.

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