Viking Night: Half Baked
By Bruce Hall
December 1, 2015
Half Baked is the kind of goofball farce best enjoyed by the goofballs it’s making fun of. This Dave Chappelle-penned stoner comedy is a favorite of actual stoners, and I can see why. There are a lot of in-jokes that you might not get unless you smoke a lot of weed, spend time around people who do, or just happen to be a super well rounded person with broad boundaries. Wall-to-wall lowest common denominator sight gags might make you laugh if you’re high out of your mind - or still in high school. But they’re all good natured, and it’s a good natured film. It’s just not very substantive or interesting.
Half Baked feels like it was assembled from the scattered bits of a drug obsessed adolescent’s manic psyche and hammered into the same forgettable not-quite-90-minute template as countless low budget comedies before and since. If that sounds like faint praise, then congratulations - you are not currently stoned, and you are hearing me correctly. But while it’s far from his best work, Half Baked offers a funny little glimpse into the future genius behind the short lived Chappelle's Show. And because it doesn’t get said enough, I’ll say it here: Jim Breuer isn’t a great actor, but he’s a hell of a comedian and when he’s in his element, he just kills.
And he’s in his element in Half Baked.
After trying pot on a dare when they were kids, Thurgood Jenkins (Chappelle) and his idiot friends Brian (Breuer), Kenny (Harland Williams), and Scarface (Guillermo Diaz) become life-long connoisseurs and come to enjoy the kind of career success that comes to most people who can’t get enough of the chronic. Kenny becomes the jewel of the bunch, eventually landing a job as a Kindergarten teacher, which is the educational equivalent of heaven for someone enjoying an almost constant residual high. But the good times come to an end when he accidentally kills a diabetic police horse (yes, the Googles tell me that apparently horses can get diabetes) by feeding it junk food.
So, Kenny ends up facing an eternity in prison for being a “cop killer”. Not only is his bail about a hundred thousand dollars, but poor Kenny is a delicate flower, not really cut out for life up the river. Luckily, Thurgood works as a janitor for a pharmaceutical firm that happens to be working on its own strain of medical marijuana - and it is some seriously kind bud. The Gang decides to pilfer from the company stash and sell it on the street to raise the bail. It goes pretty well, and the irony is that if any of these people had shown this level of ingenuity at any previous point in life, they probably wouldn’t have needed to sell illegal weed to spring their friend from the rape farm for accidentally killing a police horse with Skittles in the first place.
Still, hard work is hard work. And stupid is as stupid does. The guys quickly rake in enough money to free Kenny, but they can’t resist the temptation to live it up, spending most of it on stupid personal indulgences. Not only that, their biggest client happens to be eccentric rapper Sir Smokes-a-Lot (also Chapelle), drawing the ire of Sir Smoke’s previous supplier, eccentric bloodthirsty crime lord Samson Simpson (Clarence Williams III). And proving that bad things really do come in threes, the pharmaceutical company gets wise to the pot theft, leading to even more trouble with the police. Yeah, it’s just one madcap mix up after another, except it’s not nearly as much fun as it sounds (assuming this sounds fun to you). Tamra Davis (CB4, Billy Madison) competently holds things together behind the camera, but that’s only slightly more impressive than a disgraced Johnny Manziel leading your high school football team to the state title next year.