Half Baked [retro review]

“In eleven days, Thurgood, I’m as good as skewered! Ever take your clothes off and run backwards through a cornfield?”

The Scoop: 1998 R, directed by Tamra Davis and starring Dave Chappelle, Jim Brueuer, Harland Williams

Tagline: A comedy about best buds!

Summary Capsule: When you’re in jail, what’s really comforting is knowing that your minimum wage stoner friends are working to get you out, right? Right.

Drew’s Rating: This is the second pot-related movie I’ve reviewed this year… am I going to get a reputation?

Drew’s Review: We might as well get the disclaimers out of the way first: drugs are bad, mmmkay? You shouldn’t do drugs. Hell, just the other day my friend Trent and I were talking over a case of beer about how drugs are ruining our society. But with that being said, it’s generally accepted that if you ARE going to make a film about drugs, marijuana is clearly the way to go. It’s non-addictive, doesn’t do permanent damage to your body, and rarely leads to people robbing their grandmothers for a fix. So Hollywood making a weed movie is… well, not common exactly, but certainly not unprecedented. But far more rare than a pot-centric film is a good pot-centric film, which brings us to Half Baked. It has star power and talent behind it, but is it what you’ve been craving? Let’s find out…

Thurgood Jenkins (Dave Chappelle), our narrator and protaganist, is your average young pothead, working as a custodian (or a janitor if you want to be a jerk about it) and sharing an apartment with fellow stoners Kenny (Harland Williams), Brian (Jim Breuer), and Scarface (Guillermo Diaz). But when Kenny is arrested for accidentally killing a police officer… ‘s horse, his friends have the unenviable task of raising $100,000 to get their pal out of jail. And since their combined monthly income is less than a stripper makes in an hour, the gang’s solution is to steal medicinal marijuana from the lab where Thurgood works, then sell it on the streets. Unfortunately, this idea proves unpopular with both local law enforcement and rival drug dealer Samson; and meanwhile, Thurgood is busy keeping it a secret from new girlfriend Mary Jane (Rachel True), who hates marijuana and anyone who uses it.

Since I know you’re wondering it, let’s be clear: little of the biting, uncomfortably incisive satire Chappelle would later bring to Chappelle’s Show is in evidence here. There are vague hints of later routines, notably his Jamaican accent (Lord ha’ mercy!), but we’re still miles away from the racial draft, Wu-Tang Financial, or Wayne Brady having to choke a bitch. Still, Chappelle is an affable lead who brims with regular guy charm, and the sheer number of cameos should keep you entertained, including both the obvious (Tommy Chong, Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg) and a few less so (Bob Saget and Jon Stewart being the funniest and most against-type). Jim Breuer is fairly amusing in the role he was born to play (has there ever been a comedian who looks more stoned even when he’s not?), and the occasional interludes with Kenny in prison provide some good comedic variety. True, Scarface doesn’t get to do much and Mary Jane is attractive but bland, but you can’t have everything. And like all marijuana movies, there’s the one element that intentionally doesn’t make any sense, in this case a random guy living on the couch who nobody seems to know. Okay.

Chappelle has gone on record as being dissatisfied with the final cut of Half Baked, saying that the script he co-wrote was more adult but they instead ended up with “a weed movie for kids.” I’m surprised by that assessment, simply because some of the jokes are pretty adult, including one so dirty I didn’t even get it until my third time through. (And no, you will not find it in the quotes section. If you’re that curious, rent it.) But whether Dave was happy with the finished product or not, it ends up being a pretty darn funny movie that deals with that most controversial of drugs in a lighthearted way. It’s lowbrow humor to be sure, and I doubt it’ll become your new “best film EVER,” but it is a great way to kill an hour and a half in an enjoyable fashion. As for whatever else you may be doing during that time… well, that’s your business. Now pass the Funyuns.

See? SEE? Brueuer is stone cold sober here. It's uncanny.

Intermission:

  • Cameos include Tommy Chong, Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Jon Stewart, Janeane Garofalo, Bob Saget, and Stephen Baldwin.
  • Aside from Thurgood, Dave Chappelle also plays Sir Smoka Lot.
  • Steven Wright, who plays the Guy on the Couch, was the radio announcer from Reservoir Dogs. I knew his voice sounded familiar…
  • Dave Chappelle parodied Half Baked years later on the Chappelle Show in a “what if your favorite movies happened in real life?” skit. In it, Thurgood, Scarface, and Brian find out Kenny has been arrested, laugh about it, and then start looking for a new roommate.

Groovy Quotes:

Brian: Lady, you want seven bucks for a used Kenny Loggins record? I’ll give you five.
Customer: Uh-uh, he autographed it himself.
Brian: All right, I’ll give you four.

Kenny: What do you guys want?
Brian: Get some sour cream and onion chips, with some dip, man, some beef jerky, some peanut butter, get some Haagen-Dazs ice cream bars, a whole lot of Ha- make sure chocolate, gotta have chocolate, man. Some popcorn, red popcorn, graham crackers! Graham crackers with the marshmallows, the little marshmallows, and the little chocolate bars, and we’ll make some s’mores, man! Also, celery, grape jelly, uh, Captain Crunch with the little crunchberries, pizzas, we need two big pizzas, man, everything on ’em, with water, a whole lotta water, and… Funyuns. Yeah.
Kenny: That’s… it?

Thurgood: Hey Kenny, we gonna get you out of there, man.
Scarface: All we gotta do is raise ten percent of one million, yo. Which by our calculations is-
Brian: [Bleep]in’ impossible, man!

Mary Jane: “Just”? No no no no, not “just.” Marijuana is terrible, it’s a gateway drug. I mean, everybody knows that it leads to other stuff.
Thurgood: Yeah, mostly junk food.

Enhancement smoker: Did you ever see the back of a twenty dollar bill… on weed? Aw, there’s some weird [crap] in there, man. There’s a dude sittin’ in the bushes, man. Does he have a gun? I don’t know, man, I don’t know! What, what?! Red team go, red team go! It’s just some weird [crap], man.

You Should’ve Been There smoker: Sixty bucks? Man, I remember when a dime bag cost a dime. You know how much condoms used to cost back in them days?
Thurgood: How much?
YSBT smoker: I don’t know, we never used ’em.

Thurgood: We call this kid the After-School Special smoker. He spends all of his allowance on reefer. Thanks, little buddy! Now in the next room his father, an “I’m Forty But I’m Still Cool” smoker is toking up, trying to figure out a way to bond with his son. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?

Thurgood: But if we were gonna save Kenny, we had to deliver full time. Scarface quit his job…
Counterperson: Still waiting on that Heifer, Julio!
Scarface: [Screw] you, [screw] you, [screw] you, you’re cool, and [screw] you, I’m out!
Thurgood: Brian was gonna quit, but they fired him before he could…
Brian: Don’t worry… don’t worry. I’m not gonna do what everyone thinks I’m gonna do, and flip out, man! All I wanna know is: who’s coming with me? Who’s comin’, man, who’s coming with me? Huh? Who’s coming with me, man?

Thurgood: The MacGyver smoker is a very handy guy to have around, especially when it comes to reefer…
Friend: Hey man, we’re out of papers.
MacGyver smoker: All right, get me a toilet paper roll, a corkscrew, and some tin foil.
Friend: We don’t have a corkscrew.
MacGyver smoker: All right then, get me an avocado, an ice pick, and my snorkel. Trust me, bro, I’ve made bongs with less. Hurry up!

Thurgood: Kenny, eleven days? That seems a little stiff, man.
Kenny: In eleven days, Thurgood, I’m as good as skewered! Ever take your clothes off and run backwards through a cornfield?

If You Liked This Movie, Try These:

  • Friday
  • Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
  • Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical
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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Idle Hands « Mutant Reviewers From Hell

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