Review: 'Half-Baked': Smoke 'em if you got 'em
January 30, 1998
Web posted at: 4:02 p.m. EDT (1602 GMT)
From Reviewer Paul Tatara
(CNN) -- A quick check of the old pop cultural wristwatch
shows that it's time to once again start giggling over the
fact that lots of folks smoke marijuana. Before I begin
reviewing the unapologetic stoner movie "Half-Baked," I'd
just like to say that this writer is not in any way, shape or
form condoning the use of an illegal narcotic, but from here
on out I'm reviewing a string of jokes that has to do with
puffin' on a great big doober. Avert your eyes if necessary.
I've got a poster blurb ready to go if Universal Pictures is
looking for one (keep an eye out for it) -- "Yeah,
'Half-Baked' is lousy, but not as lousy as you'd expect it to
be." Then again, the same could be said of "Evita," but
that still doesn't make it right. I'm not claiming that
anyone should actually shell out the hard-earned cash to see
"Half-Baked," but the truth is, I had to and I lived
to tell the tale. Not that there's much tale to tell.
Comic Dave Chappelle plays Thurgood, a hospital janitor who
doesn't mind his dead-end job because it gives him more time
to smoke a lot of weed. Maaaaan. Duuuude. He and his three
stoner roommates (Guillermo Diaz, Jim Breuer and Harlan
Williams) basically light up their huge water pipe (nicknamed
"Billy Bong Thornton" in what passes for cultural satire)
given the slightest opportunity, and literally swim through
the air around their living room. Then they get the munchies
and have to make emergency runs to the corner 7-Eleven. Stop
me if you've heard this.
Not fit for kids' viewing
One of Williams' runs (in which he's to buy, among other
things, sour cream & onion potato chips, peanut butter,
graham crackers, marshmallows, Cap'n Crunch with blue
Crunchberries and pizza) sets the plot into gear when
Williams feeds the snacks to a policeman's diabetic horse and
kills it. I don't care that it's not funny; what bothers me
is how writers Chappelle and Neal Brennan so blatantly lift
from Eric Von Stroheim.
Now Williams is tossed into prison, and, since the marijuana
gags won't offend the entire audience, we get a string of
jokes about the possibility of homosexual rape. The rest of
the movie consists of Chappelle and his non-incarcerated
buddies selling the grass that he steals from the hospital
(there's also an "old lady with glaucoma" joke) to raise the bail to get Williams out of the pen. That's right. They sell it as a logical solution to their problems.
Let's do a roll call of why junior high schools should nix
any plans of taking students on a field trip to see "Half-
There's the opening scene, in which the buddies (age 9) light up for the first time, then go to the grocery store to buy 50-pound candy bars. There's the breaking and entering. There's the guys' hero, a whiny-voiced rapper named Sir Smoka Lot (also played by Chappelle), who rhymes solely about the joys of weed. There's the heroes' drug dealing. And, of course, there's the overall celebratory nature of the entire enterprise. As a 34-year-old New Yorker, I couldn't care less, but there are people out there who will hit the ceiling if they ever get a look at this thing and, better yet, realize that Bobby and Susie have already seen it. And that's the point, I guess.
Now for why it's not as lousy as it should be, although, I'll
admit, nothing in the review so far would lead you to think
otherwise. There are a few funny gags about the dope
culture, as opposed to childish snickering about the fact
that the boys are illegally lighting up. The rituals they go
through while preparing to smoke are worth a very minor
giggle, and the descriptions of the different varieties of
marijuana smokers come close to insight in this kind of
undertaking. (Snoop Doggy Dog pops up momentarily as a
"scavenger," a guy who pretends that he's quit using while he
sucks down the last of your stash.) I also got a kick out of
a much-needed "Jerry Maguire" skewering.
One scene, in which Sir Smoka Lot gets high and passes
through a theatrically experienced nervous breakdown actually
made me laugh out loud, and there are also surprise
appearances by several name actors. Quite amazingly, the
only one who's funny is Bob Sagat, although, funny or not, I
was disappointed that a small child didn't whack him between
the legs with a Whiffle bat.
For the record, we also see Steven Wright as The Guy on the
Couch (he sleeps in Chappelle's living room, even though
nobody knows who he is), comedian John Stewart, Willie
Nelson, Tommy Chong, one of the Baldwin brothers (outside of
Alec I can't keep them straight), and love-of-my-life Janeane
Garofalo's scene is disappointing, but the
marriage proposal still stands. (I would also like to point
out to the reviewer for The New York Times that that's an
actor pretending to be Jerry Garcia, a dead person who would
be hard-pressed to perform a cameo. And his name is not
Dave. Dave Garcia used to manage the Cleveland Indians.
Somebody needs to get out of the house more often.)
Don't bother to see "Half-Baked" unless some international
news service pays you to do it.
There are tons of reasons why your child should get nowhere
near "Half-Baked," most of which are discussed in the review.
There's also some comic sex and lots of bad language. Think
"Police Academy" for hop-heads. Rated R. 90 minutes.