Story: Thurgood Jenkins (Dave Chappelle) is a custodian with a simple life, he goes to work, he comes home, and he gets high. He doesn’t smoke alone however, as his partners in puff and he have been lighting up together since they were all kids. One night when he is sent out to fetch snacks, his friend Kenny feeds the wrong animal some sweets, a diabetic horse that happens to belong to a police officer. The horse kicks the bucket and soon enough, Kenny is in jail for killing an officer of the law. His friends want to bail him out before he gets cornholed, but the cash situation is dismal. After some intense smoke and silence, the boys decide to sell pot and since Thurgood can smuggle weed from the lab where he works, the idea seems like a golden one. But can these three potheads manage to keep their composure and spring their friend, or will his freedom go up in smoke?
Entertainment Value: The market for stoner comedies is a robust one, so many rely on weak, tired tropes or simply are too lazy to be funny, even if you’ve transcended. But Half Baked is a true weed smoker classic and even decades after release, holds up and delivers a lot of fun. I’d rank Half Baked as one of the funniest movies I’ve seen, even if I’m not high. Yes, I said one of the funniest I’ve ever seen and while the movie is so random and over the top, it just works so well. The movie is lowbrow, but the dialogue is hilarious and the cast simply couldn’t have been more perfect for this picture. As frequent readers know, I have a soft spot for surreal atmosphere and memorable dialogue, both of which this movie has in spades. The writing plays dumb at times, but is also consistently creative and hilarious, using the presence of weed’s mind altering effects to launch some wild sequences. Of course, the abundance of weed related humor and the goofy, sometimes nonsensical sense of humor likely won’t land with all audiences. But if you like colorful comedies or stoner movies, Half Baked is highly recommended.
Dave Chappelle shows off his stuff here in the days before his popular television show, with spot on timing and great reaction work. His costars are just as well chosen, including some cameos that are too great to put into words. Chappelle has the most grounded character, but is able to earn a lion’s share of the laughs with his delivery skills and ability to play off his costars. Even some lines and exchanges that might have otherwise been flat work well here, as Chappelle is often able to save a lame joke with a wild reaction or a slight juke in how he delivers the lines. He is also of course a believable stoner and has a likable presence as usual, making him a rock solid choice for the lead here. Chappelle also turns in double service here, playing the small, but memorable role of Sir Smoke-A-Lot. Those scenes prove to be quite humorous and Smoke-A-Lot’s quirky music skills add some laughs to the picture. The cast also includes Laura Silverman, Harland Williams, Guillermo Diaz, and Clarence Williams III.
The Disc: Umbrella Entertainment brings Half Baked to Blu-ray and as usual, the label provides a terrific looking presentation. The main element here is color, which looks vivid, bright, and often overwhelms the visuals, but this is how it is supposed to come across, so the hues are well preserved and look excellent in this treatment. I saw no quibbles to make with the black levels either, as shadow depth is dead on and no visible detail loss is evident, another superb catalog release from Umbrella. All of the extras from the Fully Baked DVD have been ported over as well. Tamra Davis, the film’s director sits down and discusses the production in an audio commentary track, but don’t expect the world here. She has some insights on what the shoot was like, the cast and the material, but not enough stories to last. So give it a listen, but prepare for some stretches of silence and narration. You can also check out an alternate end sequence, as well as a selection of ten outrageous deleted scenes, sure to please fans. This disc also includes five minutes with the guy on the couch, recipes from Granny’s cookbook, and a special look at the different types of smokers.
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