"Marijuana's not a drug! I've sucked dick for coke!"
For most people, Half-Baked is known as "the movie where that line came from" or "that movie Dave Chappelle did before his TV show." And yes, Half-Baked is both of those things. It is also from the director of Billy Madison and, oh yeah, it's pretty funny.
Dave Chappelle stars as Thurgood Jenkins, a lifelong pothead. He works as a janitor...er...custodian at a pharmaceutical company. He lives with three friends (also stoners): Scarface (Guillermo Diaz), Kenny (Harland Williams), and Brian (Jim Breuer), as well as the guy who lives on their couch (Steven Wright). Life seems to be going pretty well for the guys. They have enough money to eat, pay rent, and smoke pot. After a particularly nice round of hits, Kenny goes out to buy some munchies. Coming out of the convenience store, Kenny finds an NYPD horse, and proceeds to feed it until it dies. Kenny is arrested for killing an officer of the law, and the guys have to come up with $100,000 to bail him out. Meanwhile, Thurgood finds out that the company he cleans does experiments with medical marijuana. So, in a brainstorm, the guys decide to sell stolen pot to make Kenny's bail. However, things get tough for Thurgood when he meets Mary-Jane (Rachel True), a girl who really likes him, but hates all drugs. Now Thurgood has to figure out how to save his friend without betraying his new girlfriend.
Half-Baked is definitely funny, without a doubt, but it feels embryonic in comparison to what Chappelle has achieved since. Surprisingly, very little of the film actually revolves around the stereotype of potheads. The only one in the film who really fits that description is Jim Breuer's character. The rest of the movie shows off Chappelle's brand of humor that he would evolve through his career.
The film is crammed with celebrity cameos. Snoop Dogg, Tommy Chong, Willie Nelson, Jon Stewart, Bob Saget, and Steven Wright all make appearances in the film. In general, they often make for the funniest parts of the movie, because, let's face it, seeing Jon Stewart as the "enhancement smoker" is damn funny. Snoop Dogg is particularly funny, because you can tell he probably didn't need to act for that specific role.
The rest of the movie is more of a collection of giggles than any real serious laughs. Granted, it's always fun to watch Dave Chappelle and Harland Williams, but I get this feeling that the best stuff was probably left on the cutting room floor. Usually comedies like these work best when you just let the comedians run with the material and do their own thing. Half-Baked feels too reigned in. This is a film about pot, after all. Let it loose a little bit.
Still, there are far less funny comedies out there, so Half-Baked already has a leg up in that department. But for the price of an HD combo disc? That might be a bit too much to swallow.
The HD DVD:
Half-Baked is meant to look like the way a stoner would see the world. Lots of bright colors, to the point of being psychedelic, and a general sense of wanting to look at everything. Universal's 1.85:1 1080p VC1 transfer accomplishes this goal. Colors are vibrant, including clothing and even household objects. Detail is good, but not fantastic. The HD transfer is definitely sharper than the standard definition transfer on the other side of the combo disc.
Half-Baked is a dialogue-heavy movie, with almost nothing in the way of action or really anything that would make a decent surround mix. True to form, despite having a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix, the film is essentially in stereo. I can't think of one instance where the surrounds were used for anything but the score. You can always hear the dialogue, though, which is the important part. Interestingly, on the SD side there is a DTS 5.1 mix that is not available on the HD side.
One thing to note about this disc is that it is an HD/DVD combo, with a single-layer HD DVD on one side and a dual-sided DVD on the other. Only the director's commentary is on the HD side. All of the other supplements are on the DVD side. Personally, I find this to be annoying and against the point of what HD DVDs are meant to do. I doubt by "more interactivity" they mean "flip over the disc to get the rest of the extras because we were too cheap to make the HD side of this combo dual-layered, but we're still going to charge you $34.98 plus tax for it." And with that out of the way, here are the supplements:
Feature commentary with director Tamra Davis: Tamra Davis, best known for Billy Madison, gives her comments on Half-Baked. She doesn't have all that much to say, although she comments fairly continuously throughout the movie. We get a bit of how she got involved, a bit of production stories, and the like, but it never gets very engaging.
Deleted scenes: Really, more like extended scenes. Only one is a truly deleted scene, and it's actually very funny. I wish they had kept it in. The extended scenes didn't add too much to the original version.
Alternate Ending: Funny, but I could see why it wasn't used. It's mostly the same as the current ending, but with some added dialogue and a different outcome.
Five Minutes with "The Guy on the Couch": Is literally five minutes of watching a man who isn't Steven Wright sleeping and farting on a couch. Conceptually funny to think about, not as funny to watch.
Different types of smokers: Stupid flash animations depicting absurd renditions of various "types" of smokers, some of which don't exist. Not funny in the slightest.
Granny's Guide To Baking: Even worse than the types of smokers, this sophomoric skit has an old lady cooking up various pot-related dishes. How shocking! This is the kind of stupid pot humor that the film managed to avoid.
Production Notes: A few notes about the film.
None of the special features are in high definition.
While Half-Baked is fun, it's not Dave Chappelle's best. Nor is it HD eye or ear candy. Throw sub par supplements in with the fact that it's a combo disc (and priced accordingly), and this one is not worth a purchase. Rent It.
Daniel Hirshleifer is the High Definition Editor for DVD Talk.