Cover Story 41: Half Baked

03
Feb

HALF BAKED, FULL CLASSIC

half-baked-1

This month, we take a look back at one of our favorite stoner flicks, “Half Baked” starring a young Dave Chappelle. It’s a wacky comedy that makes us laugh almost 20 years later.

If there were a Mount Rushmore for stoner movies, a good question to debate is whether “Half Baked” should be on it. If you were to type “Best Stoner Movies” into your Internet machine, you’d find quite a few top 10 lists that don’t bother to list this 1998 romp that introduced many of us to the comic genius of Dave Chappelle.

That, friends, is a shame.

The list of top stoner comedies has some no-doubters: “Up in Smoke,” “Friday,” “Dazed and Confused” and “The Big Lebowski” among them. Hard to discount any of those. But when we’re talking about “Half Baked,” which is both ridiculous and hilarious, it’s impossible to deny its laughter-inducing potency.

So is “Half Baked” a Mount Rushmore-type movie? Maybe not, unless you’re a huge Dave Chappelle fan. Is it a top-10 flick? Yes. Is it a classic? Oh, most definitely.

What makes “Half Baked” so great is the characters. This isn’t just Dave Chappelle and his pals making pot jokes. In fact, you can make an argument that Chappelle is the third best character in the movie.

What “Half Baked” did so well was creating a cast of characters you could envision as your friends. Everybody knows the would-be responsible dude who has a so-so job and is trying to find a nice girl, but still loves to get blazed with his boys. (That’s Chappelle’s character, Thurgood.)

Everybody knows the lovable and hilarious stoner who seems high all the time (that’s Brian, played by Jim Breuer) and everybody has a rough-around-the-edges friend like Scarface (played by Guillermo Diaz) who is so unintentionally hilarious and so down for his pals.

We don’t all have friends who went to jail for killing a diabetic police horse by feeding in junk food, but we do have friends, like Kenny (played by Harland Williams), who we’d do whatever we could to help because they’re genuinely good people.

Of course, four friends don’t necessarily make a great movie. “Half Baked” is great because its parts fit so well together. The are so many memorable scenes, so many great lines that you can still quote years later and so many great cameos. (We’ll go over some of those in the following pages).

Purely from a filmmaking standpoint, “Half Baked” isn’t special. The acting could be better. Film students could write entire dissertations on how to make it look better. But that doesn’t matter much. It’s happily sloppy — the kind of imperfect product that fits the stoner ethos so well.

A movie like “Half Baked” might not get made today. It’s so off the wall and silly and it (at the time, anyway) didn’t have big bankable box-office stars. Consequently, that’s also what’s so great about “Half Baked.” It’s raw. It’s different. It’s from an era when you could make a dumb movie about four stoners with a hare-brained plot to get their friend out of jail and you didn’t have to try so hard to please the box-office bottom line.

It is, in other words, a classic.

 

OUR FIVE FAVORITE SCENES FROM ‘HALF BAKED:’

  1. “Who’s on munchies tonight?”
    When the crew makes its list of munchies requests for Kenny. Get some Häagen-Dazs ice cream bars, a whole lot, make sure chocolate, gotta have chocolate, man.” And lots more, of course.
  1. When Thurgood wears a wire
    The most bumbling group of wire-wearing informants you’ve ever seen materializes when Thurgood and his crew go undercover to get evidence against Sampson. It’s not exactly stealth or smart.
  1. Thurgood’s cheap date
    When Thurgood gets his date with Mary Jane and doesn’t have any money, he sets out to make the date a winner with just $8. It includes three hours of walking, a street-vendor hot dog, a cheap cab ride and stealing money from a homeless guy.
  1. The different kind of smokers
    When Mr. Nice Guy’s business is picking up, we learn about the different kind of smokers they service. And the scene is loaded with great cameos. There’s Scavenger Smoker (Snoop Dogg), Historian Smoker (Willie Nelson), MacGyver smoker (Stephen Baldwin) and Enhancement Smoker (Jon Stewart). Stewart is the best. “Did you ever see the back of a 20-dollar bill on weeeed?!?”
  1. Scarface quits his job
    The No. 1 scene, without question, is when Scarface decides to quit his job at the burger place and drops F-bombs on everybody he doesn’t like. If you haven’t looked at a group of people standing in front of you and re-enacted the dialog, we don’t know what’s wrong with you.

 

THE ‘HALF BAKED’ CREW: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Here’s a look at what the stars of “Half Baked” are doing today:

  • Dave Chappelle (played Thurgood): We don’t need to tell you about Chappelle’s rise, fall and rise again. “Half Baked” helped turn Chappelle into a star, which he fully realized when “Chappelle’s Show” debuted. After he quit the show and left the spotlight for a few years, Chappelle has re-focused his energy these days solely on doing stand-up comedy.
  • Guillermo Diaz (Scarface): Diaz has stayed busy as an actor, first making cameos on “Chappelle’s Show.” He eventually had a role on “Weeds” and “Mercy.” Nowadays most people know him as Huck from the ABC hit “Scandal,” where he plays a mercenary with a crazy past.
  • Jim Breuer (Brian): The stoniest stoner in “Half Baked” is the busiest of this crew today. He’s still a stand-up comic and shows up on TV doing voice work. But he’s also in a metal band (Jim Breuer and the Regulators) and hosts two different podcasts. See more of his work at officialjimbreuer.com.
  • Harland Williams (Kenny): The jail-bound member of the “Half Baked” crew, Williams is still active in comedy and does a lot of voice work for cartoons, ranging from “Robot Chicken” to kids fare such as “Jake and the Never-Land Pirates.” He’s been on touring lately doing stand-up with Tom Green and Pauly Shore.
  • Rachel True (Mary Jane): After “Half Baked,” the actress who played Mary Jane went on to star in the UPN sitcom “Half & Half.” Her career has slowed down some, but she’s still acting, mostly in TV movies. You might have seen her in “Sharknado 2.”

 

THE FIVE BEST DAVE CHAPPELLE QUOTES FROM ‘HALF BAKED’

  1. “I don’t do drugs, though. Just weed.”
  1. “Yeah, get me a box of condoms, and, what was that thing we used to eat back in the day? What was it… oh yeah, pussy.”
  1. “You have smoked yourself retarded.”
  1. “If I wasn’t from Jamaica, then why would I be wearing this hat?”
  1. “Abba Zaba, you my only friend.”


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