Reviewed by Dan Lybarger
January 21, 1998
For a movie about forbidden joys, Half Baked isn’t much fun.
Stand-up comic Dave Chappelle (who co-wrote the abysmal script with Neal Brennan) stars as Thurgood, a janitor and a confirmed weed-head. Thurgood finds his work at the pharmaceutical firm Frankensense and Burr considerably more satisfying when he discovers that the scientists are conducting experiments with primo pot. When his buddy Kenny (Harland Williams from Rocket Man) gets put in the slammer for a mishap involving a police horse, Thurgood and his pals Scarface (Guillermo Díaz) and Brian (Jim Breur) start embezzling the weed from the company and selling it on the street to finance Kenny’s bail. While their product is an instant hit (most of the pun-filled dialogue in this movie is that bad), Thurgood has to contend with a girlfriend, ironically named Mary Jane (Rachel True), who doesn’t approve, and a rival drug merchant (Clarence Williams III) who’s jealous of their business.
Half Baked deals with a potentially dangerous and provocative topic in the most timid and stale way possible. In addition to the painfully lame plays on words (their call their "tools" Billy Bong Thornton and Wesley Pipes), there are moldy gags about dropping soap in prison showers and some Naked Gun-style references to Dead Presidents, Batman (the 60’s TV-show) and Jerry McGuire that simply aren’t funny.
Director Tamra Davis’ (Billy Madison) kitchen sink approach might have worked if some of the gags had been better conceived. As a result, the film’s approach seems more lazy than whimsical. Casting potentially interesting performers like Janeane Garofalo, Snoop Doggy Dogg and Willie Nelson in small roles does no good if they have nothing to do. The presence of Tommy Chong as a crazed convict makes things worse. Without Cheech, he’s a dour reminder of the downside of uncontrolled substances. Instead of defying the "just say ‘no’" mentality, Half Baked frequently seems to have been secretly mentored by Nancy Reagan.
Chappelle is likable (even if he’s not terribly amusing), and a couple of the gags are inspired. There’s a nicely executed sequence where he manages to have a successful date on a budget of $8. Nonetheless, Half Baked is a waste in the worst sense of the word. The sad fact is that drug-themed movies can be entertaining and worthwhile. Dazed and Confused and Trainspotting worked because they looked at the subject of illicit substances with wit, audacity and sincerity. Even if these films veered toward the tasteless, there was enough merit to keep them interesting. Half Baked is merely a lackadaisical annoyance. Rarely has being bad looked so boring ( R ). Rating: 2.
This page was last updated on 01/21/98.