Half Baked
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Half Baked

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For good or bad, movies have created new genres to reflect changes in society. In 1978 Cheech and Chong took their drug-centric humor to the movies and the stoner genre was born. One of the later but still definitive entry into this type of film is Half Baked. While it will never find itself on any top ten lists there is a certain amusement to be had here. Now donít expect a lot in the way of a story line, after all the target audience is not known for a reliable degree of short term memory. Four friends, Jenkins (David Chappelle), Scarface (Guillermo Diaz), Brian (Jim Breuer), and Kenny (Harland Williams) basically have reduced life to one simple thing, they smoke marijuana constantly, I donít mean as often as humanly possible, I really mean constantly. The only break in the smoking is to obtain more pot or get the always required junk food. While on one of these munchie runs Kenny in a good nature gesture gives a copious amount of these sugary delights to police horse that just happens to be standing near by. Unfortunately for Kenny the horse is a diabetic, goes into shock and dies. Kenny is immediately charged with being a cop killer and goes to jail. His three friends manager to put aside the bong long enough to visit his friend in jail and discover that they have to raise $100,000 right away. Now, in a very convenient coincidence Jenkins works (yes a real job, someone has to pay the dealer) in a research lab where they are using pot in their experiments. This is not your run of the mill street weed, it is extremely potent Ďgovernment potí, the holy grail of every pot head in the world. After overly easily obtaining a vast quantity the remaining trio decides to explore the retail aspect of their vocation. In such a supply side economy as this the boys shortly find themselves on the radar of the local drug lord, Sampson Simpson (Clarence Williams III). Naturally, he is not pleased and far from being inclined to welcome the new dealers. Jenkins also finds himself drawn to a beautiful, straight girl aptly named Mary Jane (Rachel True). He now has to balance helping out his friend and convincing Mary Jane that he is a worthy suitor.

Considering how this movie runs and the cameo appearance of such notables as Tommy Chong and Snoop Doggy Dogg one has to wonder if the substance being inhaled was actually a prop. Unlike the famous statement by former President Clinton this cast apparently did inhale, deeply and frequently. It is important to remember that you donít go for a film such as this for great cinema; you more likely watch it with a vast quantity of beer and pizza (letís keep it legal here folks) and a bunch of friends. In this the film actually will succeed in inciting laughs, almost in spite of itself. The movie is pure, uncut silliness. There are many little gags that are fired at the audience with such a rapid pace that you just might catch something new with subsequent viewings. While some movies are helped by shutting off your higher cognitive abilities for the duration such is absolutely required in viewing this film.

Looking at the genre of this film you may not have imagined that the cast is composed of absolutely brilliant young comedians. Each of the four leads has been a stand up comedian and able to garner their own feature films. David Chappelle is the epitome of the off the wall stand up comedian. As anyone who has seen his Comedy Central series can attest he has never learned the word boundaries. Here he simply lets go of all inhibitions and goes with the premise of the flick. Harland Williams is making a career of being the sad sack loser. He has the look of someone that the universe is just gunning for. What seems to work in his comic style is how it is almost impossible to watch him without feeling better about your self by comparison. No matter how bad a day at work you may have had at least you are not in jail for giving a horse candy! Jim Breuer is proof that not everyone with attention deficit disorder should be medicated. His vast energy seems without any direction, it bursts out and inundates the audience with gag after gag. Together these comedians may not be the best actors but they do what they are supposed to do, keep you laughing. The sight gags alone are worth the watch.

Director Tamra Davis is no stranger to outrageous, over the top comedy, she was at the helm for Adam Sandlerís Billy Madison and the unintentional funny Brittany Spears flick, Crossroads. Davis has the talent to realize that the film she is working on is being made for silly enjoyment only; there are no aspirations to forcing the film to be anything else. It takes a special talent to do this successfully; few directors can assemble such a cast and just point the camera at their antics. Davis controls the all important pacing of the film, never dwelling too long on any one gag, always giving the audience something new to laugh at.

To their credit Universal has been giving their all to a wide variety of films and television shows. While this film is not on most peopleís must have list their Fully Baked Edition of Half Baked is done to a tee. The audio is presented in both Dolby 5.1 and DTS. Both sound tracks are nicely done, the rear speakers are mostly for ambience but the over all sound field is well balanced. The DTS track did provide more back fill for a more natural sound. The anamorphic video (there is also a full screen version but why bother) is excellent. The colors are vibrant, the demarcation between light and dark well defined and there is no pixilation to be seen. The blacks are full and deep and no compression artifacts where discernable. The silliness does not end with the film. There are some ten deleted scenes which give a feeling that cast and crew alike had a lot of fun making this flick. There is an alternate ending, while not really necessary in this case it was a nice touch. Davis provides some of the dirt on the behind the scenes antics with her commentary that does add to subsequent viewings. Topping things off are some very strange featurettes such as Smoker Types, Grannyís Guide to Baking and Five Minutes with the guy on the couch. This is a film to kick back, tune out the world and laugh.

Posted 2/9/05

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