[Screen It]


(1998) (David Chappelle, Harland Williams) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Extreme None *Moderate None Minor
*Heavy None Minor Mild Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Moderate Minor None Moderate Mild

Comedy: A group of friends starts selling stolen marijuana so that they can bail their friend out of prison.
Thurgood (DAVE CHAPPELLE), a janitor, Scarface (GUILLERMO DIAZ), a short-order fry cook, Brian (JIM BREUER), a deadhead record store clerk, and Kenny (HARLAND WILLIAMS), a kindergarten teacher, are twenty-something slackers. Spending all of their time together and inhabiting the same dingy apartment, the four guys live for getting high from smoking marijuana. During an attack of the "munchies," Kenny goes out to buy junk food, but instead feeds it to a police horse that dies. Kenny's sent to prison with a million dollar bail figure, so his three friends then try to figure out how to raise the money to get him out.

After Thurgood brings home some experimental pot from the lab where he works, the guys decide to steal more of it and sell it on the streets. They run into problems, however, in the form of Mary Jane (RACHEL TRUE), a woman Thurgood has fallen for and who's adamantly against drugs, as well as drug kingpin Sampson Simpson (CLARENCE WILLIAMS III) who's mad that the guys are cutting in on his territory. As Kenny tries to cope with prison life, his buddies work hard to sell enough pot to bail him out.

Preteens won't, but any kids who think a "drug" movie will be hip will probably want to see it. Older high school kids and college students seem to be the likely audience.
For pervasive drug content, language, nudity and sexual material.
Beyond RACHEL TRUE (who plays a straight-laced woman -- although she does sleep with Thurgood), it's doubtful many parents would see any of the characters (considering the drug use) as good role models.


OUR TAKE: 1 out of 10
Movies have addressed drug use in different ways throughout the years. Of course there are the many made for TV dramas that deal with the issue, but we're talking more about their big screen cousins. While there's always the more serious look at dealers and users, the comedies are the ones that usually stand out. From the preposterous, propaganda flick "Reefer Madness" (originally released in 1936 as "Tell Your Children") to the Cheech and Chong films of the late 1970's and early 80's, many of the pictures have been controversial simply because mainstream audiences don't know whether they're glorifying or poking fun at drugs and drug users.

"Half Baked," the latest 90's incarnation, falls into that same category. Many people may see this film as promoting drug use, while others will believe it's not meant to be taken seriously. Still others will probably sit back, light up a joint, and hope to find some humor in this film. While we're certainly not promoting that, that seems to be the necessary ingredient for enjoying this release.

Helmed by director Tamra Davis, who brought us the high brow, art house films, "Happy Gilmore" and "CB4" (facetiousness notice), and co-penned by Chappelle and Neal Brennan, this material is aimed pretty low. While it will appeal mainly to older teens and college students, it's highly unlikely that this film will find anything of a crossover audience.

Of course fans of this sort of movie will obviously criticize any serious critique of such a film. Well, that's our job, so here are the tangible details. If you've smoked pot in the past or are currently indulging, you'll probably enjoy this film. There's a lot of drug use, as well as tons of drug references used for potential comedy. Instances include the guys naming their bong, "Billy Bong Thorton" (after the actor of "Sling Blade" fame) and a pipe, "Wesley Pipes" (after actor Wesley Snipes), and a woman's name is Mary Jane (a slang reference for pot for those who didn't know). The "munchies" (developing an unsatiable appetite after smoking pot) are often used for humor such as when a group of boys "see" gargantuan sized junk food, and when a dog gets a case of them after having marijuana smoke blown into its face.

Then there are the celebrity cameos from all sorts of people who are categorized by what type of pot smoker they are/were. Comedian Jon Stewart is the Enhancement Smoker (where everything is different when seen through cannabis-glazed eyes), Willie Nelson is the You Shoulda Been There Smoker (talking about the old days of pot smoking), rapper Snoop Doggy Dog is the Scavenger Smoker (who suddenly shows up to share a joint) and Janeane Garofalo is the I'm Only Creative When I Smoke Smoker (a bad poet).

Most of these moments aren't very funny, and some may see these celebrities as endorsing drug use (some may be, others may be in on "the joke"). The oddest point comes when what appears to be Bob Saget (from "TV's Funniest Home Videos") -- or at least a strong look alike -- stands up in a drug rehab program and says, "I used to suck d*ck for coke. Have you ever sucked some d*ck for marijuana?"

The film also tries to poke fun at other movies and TV shows and is likewise only modestly successful with those efforts. There are a few moments of paying homage to the old "Batman" TV show, including a transitional effect that uses a marijuana leaf instead of the outline of a bat (with the Batman sound clip) as well as a fight scene straight from the old TV show (except that it's missing the on-screen "POW's" and "WHAM's" that would seem obvious to include in a movie like this). There's also a spoof scene from "Jerry Maguire" where one of the guys loses his job and asks who will come with him. While it's a scene ripe for spoofing, the execution is rather bland.

The main actors themselves are nothing more than caricatures, mostly of the flimsy cardboard variety. The only half decent one is Chappelle ("The Nutty Professor") whose character gets to do something beyond inhaling (and that's to have a love interest). Breuer (of TV's "Saturday Night Live" -- the guy behind the Joe Pesci impersonation and the horribly annoying "goat boy" skit) does a decent job recreating a habitually stoned, glaze-eyed slacker, but his character is just as annoying as that goat he often plays. Diaz ("High School High") is okay, but Harland Williams ("Rocket Man") and his outlandish style of humor are wasted in his limited role. Of course we certainly weren't expecting Oscar caliber performances from these guys, but at least a little substance would have been nice.

The plot is paper thin and includes some ancillary, but usually unsuccessful attempts at humor. Clarence Williams III (of the old TV show, "The Mod Squad") plays a James Bond-ish type villain, complete with a bevy of scantily clad, but highly trained, armed, and dangerous female decorations. Tommy Chong (of the former duo "Cheech and Chong") shows up as Kenny's "butch" prison bodyguard, while monotone, deadpan comedian Steven Wright plays the guy who sleeps on the sofa and rarely talks.

Yes, hilarious stuff indeed, and if your idea of comedy also includes getting laughs out of people getting high and suddenly thinking they're Superman and flying around New York City, then you'll probably enjoy this picture. Otherwise, you'd be better off passing on this film that, by all proper predictions, should be quickly making its way toward the rental shelves of your local video store. Whenever a major studio decides not to screen a new release for the press (which Universal declined to do for this film), you (and they) know it's not that good. We agree with them, and thus give "Half Baked" -- which is a good description of this movie -- a 1 out of 10.

Obviously drug use will probably be the biggest issue for parents. While some may argue about whether the film pokes fun at or endorses drug use, several things do need to be pointed out. First of all (and considering that the movie isn't meant to be taken seriously), some kids might not get the "joke" and may see the main characters and the many celebrities smoking pot as being cool. Secondly, there's a great deal of drug use (smoking joints and using bongs), as well as the buying and selling of drugs.

All of it's played for laughs, and no serious consequences come about because of this behavior -- the guys even get let off the hook at the end although they had been arrested for stealing drugs from a lab, as well as using and selling them. The main character does eventually swear off using drugs, but it's in the final scene, and what he swears them off for (sex, in so many words) might not seem any better to some viewers. Beyond all of that, there's extreme profanity, some implied sexual activity, some sexual talk, and one brief instance of seeing bare breasts and a longer one of seeing several mens' butts. Since quite a few teens may want to see this film, we strongly suggest that you look through the content to determine if this is appropriate for them.

  • The four main guys smoke marijuana nearly nonstop throughout the film (from both joints and bongs).
  • Other characters also smoke pot throughout the movie.
  • We see the four friends (as boys) smoking marijuana for the first time and getting "high" from it, and we hear Thurgood (as the narrator) tells us that it became the fifth member of their crew.
  • Thurgood gives several examples of how and where to buy drugs.
  • We see large amounts of marijuana at the pharmaceutical company where Thurgood works.
  • We see an anonymous boy smoking pot, and then see his father doing the same in the next room (as well as the grandmother who claims it's good for her glaucoma and arthritis).
  • Thurgood blows marijuana smoke into a vicious dog's face that sedates him.
  • Some of the women with drug kingpin Simpson drink what appears to be wine, and he does so as well.
  • Simpson throws out some cocaine and heroin for the guys to purchase.
  • None.
  • Some viewers will see all of the drug use, as well as the guy selling drugs as evidence of both.
  • Additionally, the guys steal pot from the lab where Thurgood works.
  • Thurgood repeatedly lies to Mary Jane about not using drugs.
  • Thurgood slyly takes money from a homeless man's cup for himself.
  • None.
  • Machine guns/Martial arts weapons/Cross bow: Carried by drug kingpin Simpson's women.
  • Automatic weapons: Aimed by the police at the guys while arresting them.
  • Buying, selling, and using drugs (since it's so prevalent and played for laughs), and since we see some real-life celebrities smoking or talking about smoking pot.
  • Phrases: "Stoner," "Toke up," "Weed" and "Pot heads" (referring to drug use), "Nigger" (said by black people), "Bitch" (said by a music video performer several times toward women, and by a male prison inmate referring to Kenny), "Shut up," "Screwed up," "Wuss," "Bastard," "Kissing my ass," "Dyke" (for lesbian), "Bitch-slap" and "Sucked."
  • Thurgood gives Scarface and Brian "the finger."
  • Thurgood does some pelvic thrusting up against a table after getting a date with Mary Jane.
  • None.
  • There's one brief instance where music from the movie "Psycho" plays.
  • There are several songs that have drug references in them (for instance, "I'm in love with Mary Jane. She makes me feel all right.").
  • At least 13 "f" words (2 using "mother"), 25 "s" words, 3 slang terms for male genitals (the "d" word), 2 slang terms for female genitals (the "p" word), 2 slang terms for breasts (the "t" word), 13 damns, 11 hells, 5 asses (1 using "hole"), 4 S.O.B.'s, and 2 uses of "G-damn" and 1 use each of "Oh Lord," "God," "Jesus Christ," and "Oh my God" as exclamations.
  • Thurgood tells Kenny (who's on a "munchie" grocery run) to buy some condoms and "some p*ssy" (referring to it as something he used to eat in college).
  • Kenny refers to the prison inmates wanting "some of my cock-tail, fruit" (a homosexual reference).
  • Thurgood does some pelvic thrusting up against a table after getting a date with Mary Jane.
  • Thurgood mentions that he got "some booty" (had sex with Mary Jane) and we see several still photos of the two of them together where we see her cleavage, and see him feeling her breasts (her bra is still on).
  • Willie Nelson (playing himself) asks Thurgood if he knows how much condoms cost back in the sixties. When Thurgood answers that he doesn't, Nelson says that he doesn't either "cuz we never used them."
  • Brian asks a young woman to be his girlfriend, but she tells him that she's gay ("a big dyke" in her words).
  • We see some women in skimpy bikinis at a rap star's home.
  • We see many mens' bare butts in a prison shower scene. After Kenny drops the proverbial soap, Thurgood (as the narrator) says, "Kenny's butt-hole is in constant jeopardy."
  • A man stands up in a drug rehab program and says, "I used to suck d*ck for coke. Have you ever sucked some d*ck for marijuana?"
  • A woman with Simpson shows quite a bit of cleavage and later during a fight scene we see her bare breast after it's popped out of her outfit.
  • Thurgood says, "I love weed, but not as much as I love p*ssy."
  • Not including all of the pot smoking, we see a man smoking a cigar.
  • None.
  • All of the drug use, the fact that many of the characters mention that marijuana isn't a drug (like cocaine or other "hard" drugs), and that all of it's played for laughs (no bad consequences). Also, the guys refer to themselves as "fund raisers" and not "drug dealers."
  • A performer in a music video mockingly hits two people.
  • Scarface quits his job and throws a hamburger patty that hits a man in the face.
  • When the guys return to their apartment, they find that someone trashed it and killed their dog (seen with its legs sticking straight up).
  • There's some mock fighting (straight from the old "Batman" TV show) between Thurgood and friends and Simpson and his women (Scarface bites a woman on the leg and they then roll across the floor, a woman swings a sword at Thurgood, etc...). The guys then punch some women in the face until Simpson holds a gun on Scarface. Another person eventually knocks Simpson unconscious.

  • Reviewed January 16, 1998

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