Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Half Baked (1998) **

R, 82 min.
Director: Tamra Davis
Writers: Dave Chappelle, Neal Brennan
Starring: Dave Chappelle, Guillermo Díaz, Jim Breuer, Harland Williams, Rachel True, Clarence Williams III, Laura Silverman, Tommy Chong

Have I inhaled? I’m not running for office, so… yes. But, I was never any good at it. I tend to befriend people who believe in it as a way of life, however. Those people will probably be disappointed with my opinion of this movie (and tomorrow’s Penny Thoughts), but you can’t even please your friends sometimes when you’re in the criticism business.

I loved Dave Chappelle’s TV show. It was innovative, funny, and bitingly sharp. “Half Baked”, a movie about four stoners co-written by Chappelle, on the other hand lives up to its title in more ways than one. This one needed a little more time in the oven. Or perhaps, it needed at little less of its own influence. Whatever the root of its problems, it just doesn’t ever seem to quite get on base.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some funny moments in this movie. The guy asleep on the couch is an inspired detail. The way the four friends see themselves when they’re high made me laugh out loud, especially when they see a dog they get high in the same way. Their introductions to the chronic are pretty good laughs as well. However, too much of the movie isn’t funny. It isn’t so much that there are gags that don’t work, as it seems the filmmakers are too content not to fill space with laughs. Why doesn’t anything ever come out of Tommy Chong’s involvement? Did they forget him on their way to White Castle?

I’ve seen stoner comedies where the laughs never stop assaulting the audience, and you can’t wait to see it again to catch what you missed the first time. Not with this movie. With “Half Baked” it would be difficult to miss anything, even if you were fully baked.

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