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Half Baked (Special Edition)
Tamra Davis, who a few years earlier gave us the gift that keeps on giving that is Billy Madison, directed Half Baked in 1998, a film that stars a pre-Chapelle's Show Dave Chappelle as Thurgood Jenkins. Ever since he was young, Thurgood has enjoyed smoking weed, and these days spends his days working as a janitor at a pharmaceutical company in New York City, or as he puts it, "a master of the custodial arts." When he isn't at work, he's mostly hanging out with his roommates, Scarface (Guillermo Diaz), Kenny (Harland Williams) and Brian (Jim Breuer), all of whom are also big into reefer.
One night, after getting the munchies, Kenny decides to go out for a snake. On the way back he comes across an NYPD horse and decides to feed it and, shortly after he does that, the horse dies. Kenny is arrested and locked away unless his pals can come up with the $100,000.00 he needs to make bail. When Thurgood learns that the company he works for has a division that deals in experimental strains of weed, they decide to lift some product and sell it to raise some quick cast and spring their pal from the bighouse.
Around the same time, Thurgood meets a lovely young woman named Mary-Jane (Rachel True). He falls for her pretty quickly and she for him, but she frowns upon the fact that he smokes as much dope as he does. This leaves Thurgood in a bit of a pickle… can he clean up his act and go straight and still help Kenny out or will he fall back into old habits and spend the rest of his life as a stoned slacker?
The best part about Half Baked is the acting. Jim Breuer isn't exactly stretching as an actor here, but he plays the stoner cliché well enough to work. Harland William's consistently goofy presence is always good for a laugh and he's got a few legitimately funny moments here. Guillermo Diaz and Rachel True are fine in their supporting roles as well, but Dave Chappelle is the big draw here, laying down the genesis of what would become the type of comedic performances he's known for now in the skits that he created back when he had his show on Comedy Central. Snoop Dogg, Tommy Chong, Willie Nelson, Jon Stewart, Janeane Garofalo, Bob Saget (who has the best line in the movie), Tracy Morgan, Stephan Baldwin, and Steven Wright also all have amusing cameos in the picture, which adds to the amusement of the picture.
The script might not be all that original but it's good enough to work. The fact that not every character in the movie is a stoner cliché definitely helps in this department, as that's been done plenty of times and at this point, it can get old fast. Production values are decent here and Tamra Davis does a nice job with the pacing. This is a movie that probably shouldn't have been as genuinely funny as it is, but the cast bring it home and if you can appreciate stoner comedies, this is one of the better ones from the nineties.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics releases Half Baked on region free Blu-ray in a 1.85.1 widescreen transfer in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 50GB disc. Likely taken from an existing master, this doesn't rise to the levels of detail that a more recent remaster would have been able to provide, but it does surpass the old DVD release. There's some edge enhancement and noise reduction clearly baked into the master (likely an older Universal job as this was common with their work a few years ago) so keep your expectations in check. Colors look really nice, however, and we get decent black levels as well.
The only audio option on the disc is an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. There are no alternate language options or subtitles provided. The 5.1 mix is solid, using the surround channels effectively during action scenes, while keeping most of the dialogue up front and center in the mix. No problems with any hiss or distortion to note here, and the levels are balanced well and the use of music definitely benefits from the improved quality of the lossless track.
There are no new extras here but it looks like everything off of the ‘Fully Baked' special edition DVD release has been carried over, starting with a very laid back commentary track from director Tamra Davis. It's a decent talk, covering what it was like working with the different cast members, her thoughts on the movie overall and quite a bit more. A moderator might have made this more engaging as there are moments where she goes a little quiet, but the good outweighs the bad (though really, a cast commentary surely would have been gold?).
The disc also includes ten deleted scenes and an alternate ending, which are amusing to see if not exactly revelatory (though the alternate ending is just as good, if not better, than the one used in the movie proper).
There are some other throwaways extras included here as well. Five Minutes With The Guy On The Couch is literally five minutes with Steven Wright, who plays… the guy on the couch. He mostly just sort of rolls around and farts. The brief Different Types Of Smokers featurette is an animated bit that details different pothead clichés, while Granny's Guide To Bakin' is a goofy bit where an old lady makes some dishes using weed as an ingredient. None of these are as funny as they think they are but better to have them carried over than not.
Menus and chapter selection options are also provided, as is a theatrical trailer for the feature.
Half Baked is genuinely funny, and a fair bit smarter than your average stoner comedy. Chappelle is great in the lead and both Williams and Breuer are quite funny as the support. It moves at a nice pace and features plenty of laughs throughout. The Blu-ray bests the old DVD but provides a good, not reference quality, presentation that looks like it is taken from an older master. Audio is quite good and while there are no new extras, the older ones are all here. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.