Half Baked Jul 25, 2019 17:17:35 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Jul 25, 2019 17:17:35 GMT -5
Half Baked (1998)
Directed by: Tamra Davis
Directed by: Tamra Davis
Guillermo Díaz, Dave Chapelle, and Dave Breuer in Half Baked.
Half Baked follows four lifelong stoner buds (see what I did there?): Thurgood (Dave Chappelle), Scarface (Guillermo Díaz), Brian (Jim Breuer), and Kenny (Harland Williams), all of whom tried marijuana at a young age and have been hyperfixated on it ever since. They've developed their own smoking rituals, have a variety of bongs with punny names, and with the exception of Kenny, who somehow became a kindergarten teacher, all seem content with their low-level Joe-jobs. Oddly enough, it's Kenny who winds up getting busted on a munchie run for feeding all of their snacks to a diabetic police horse, who keels over almost immediately after scarfing down the last of their Cheetos and pizza.
Kenny gets thrown in the pokey at $1 million bail, which compels Thurgood and his friends to try and raise the money to get their pal out of jail. It just so happens all this occurs on the same week that Thurgood, a janitor at a medical lab, discovers that his workplace has ample amounts of medical marijuana on hand that can be obtained by just a (forged) prescription. In response, the three free men begin selling joints all around town, quickly making a killing, but also landing them in hot water with Samson Simpson (Clarence Williams III), the neighborhood drug lord who plans to extort the entrepreneurs. It's during this time that Thurgood also meets and falls in love with Mary Jane Potman (Rachel True), what a name, a staunch anti-drug activist; Thurgood lies about his copious pot-smoking in efforts to make the relationship work.
This is about as deep as things get with Half Baked, which in some sense lives up to its title. It assumes its (target) audience is under the influence of some pretty dope substances, and with that mentality, it doesn't need to work extremely hard to mine this story for any depth or complexity. On the surface, it's a mildly amusing comedy, elevated by Chappelle — even before his mega-hit TV show Chappelle's Show — and director Tamra Davis (CB4), who employs touches of surrealism throughout the film.
Writers Chappelle and Neal Brennan (who would become a co-creator/writer on Chappelle's Show) are at their strongest during a sequence when they identify the various types of pot smokers they encounter. To go into details about what constitutes a "Scavenger smoker" versus a "MacGyver smoker" would ruin the joke entirely, but it's a treat to see the likes of Snoop Dogg and Stephen Baldwin pop up in the most ridiculous cameos. Including one so obvious you'd almost thought they'd forget. Still, nobody tops Bob Saget, in what has since become a "cult favorite scene" in a cult comedy.
Half Baked employs a trope many stoner films do insofar that it portrays the people who smoke weed as bumbling idiots. There are things to laugh at within those stereotypes, but the joke does grow stale after a while, and even at 82 minutes, the gears begin to grind early. Keeping Half Baked from being severely undercooked are the aforementioned touches of "stoner surrealism" by Davis and cinematographer Steven Bernstein, who served as a photographer on many early 2000s comedies (Corky Romano and Scary Movie 2 to name a few). Their neon-colored visuals, structural looseness, and general hazy ambiance — not to mention an outlandish premise — shows that this isn't a picture bound to a strict plot, but one that lets Chappelle and the rest of the cast's comic abilities shine.
Stoner films, however, do work best with some kind of concept, even a simple one (see Friday or Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle). Half Baked is so loose it wouldn't likely service a two-part episode of a sitcom. Its brevity is a blessing, as is the presence of Chappelle, and with the right substances, if you so choose to indulge, it's a complementary night-cap to a night in with your favorite stereotyped smokers.
Starring: Dave Chappelle, Guillermo Díaz, Jim Breuer, Harland Williams, Rachel True, Clarence Williams III, Tommy Chong, Jon Stewart, Snoop Dogg, Stephen Baldwin, Willie Nelson, and Bob Saget. Directed by: Tamra Davis.