Volume 91, Issue 64

Thursday, January 22, 1998

Smoked


ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
 

Subversive, yet silly

By Sara Falconer
Gazette Staff

"I used to suck dick for coke!" screams Bob Saget. This statement is way beyond surreal coming from the mouth of the squarest man on the planet – but it's not the only surprise in Half Baked. A great deal lies beneath the surface of the film that is being marketed as a thoroughly stupid comedy.

Thurgood (Dave Chappelle), Brian (Jim Bruer), Scarface (Guillermo Diaz) and Kenny (Harland Williams) are four childhood friends living their "adult" lives together in a New York apartment. They're no geniuses, but they care a lot about each other, especially the fifth and most important member of their group, Mary Jane (marijuana). Thurgood, who narrates the tale, explains the complicated rituals of the pothead, including the use of the family bong, Billy Bong Thornton.

They work menial jobs to subsidize their unobtrusive, simple lifestyle, until one night Kenny pulls "munchie duty" and befriends the wrong horse. Poor Kenny means well, but a few handfuls of pink popcorn, later, a cop's diabetic horse is dead and Kenny's in jail as an accused cop killer with $1 million bail.

The next day, when his friends sober up long enough to figure out what has happened, they decide the only chance they have to save Kenny is by selling pot. Thurgood is a caretaker at a pharmaceutical company and he discovers a product so good, it literally makes its users fly – even the dog. This plan works fine until they begin to threaten the business of a real drug dealer and various zany high jinx ensue before the ashes of Jerry Garcia finally save the day.

Half Baked is light entertainment at its very best. Thurgood's account serves as a sort of "Wild Kingdom" of stoners, including such breeds as the "I'm Only Creative When I'm Stoned" artist (Janeane Garafalo), "The Way It Used To Be" hippie (Willie Nelson) and "The Mooch" (Snoop Doggy Dogg). Stephen Baldwin is "The McGyver Stoner," proving that an avocado will suffice if you don't have any papers.

The characters are genuinely likable and dynamic. Great appearances are made by Tommy Chong (yes, THE Chong) and Steven Wright as the enigmatic "man on the couch." All the actors, familiar stars and young comedians alike, give exceptional performances. While comedy may almost be a lost art in the majority of recent television and film selections, these talents offer audiences a spark of hope.

The whole film feels like a big inside joke, but you don't have to be a pothead to enjoy it. It has a vitality and fast pace that most new comedies lack and is consistently funny with a few absolutely hilarious moments. The humour is far from politically correct, yet it's playful and witty, not just vulgar.

The only thing half-baked about this movie is its advertising campaign, which makes it look like something that would only appeal to morons. Hopefully word of mouth will be enough to give this surprising comedy the success it deserves.



©Timothy White
JUST ONE BIG, HAPPY (AND STONED) FAMILY. Guillermo Diaz, Harland Williams, Jim Bruer and Dave Chapelle combine all of their talents to form the hilariously witty Half Baked.





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