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Film review: Half-Baked

Published: Saturday, Jan. 17 1998 12:01 a.m. MST

As far as movie titles are concerned, "Half-Baked" doesn't inspire much confidence. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that this awful "stoner" comedy doesn't even live up (or is that down?) to its name.

Making an ill-conceived attempt at updating the Cheech & Chong "drug-culture" films of the '70s — with just a trace of some '90s urban sex comedies like "Booty Call" thrown in for good measure — the movie makes those duds look better than they were.

It's hard to say who we should feel more sorry for, the celebrities who put in embarrassing cameo appearances (including Jon Stewart, Willie Nelson, Steven Wright, Janeane Garofalo and Tommy Chong himself) or audiences who are lured into shelling out cash to watch this stinker.

Alleged comedian Dave Chappelle ("The Nutty Professor") deserves most of the blame. After all, he co-scripted and came up with the "brainstorm" of casting three of his friends — Harland Williams ("RocketMan"), Jim Breuer (TV's "Saturday Night Live") and Guillermo Diaz ("Party Girl") — as the leads.

Further compounding the problem, Chappelle also stars as Thurgood, a custodian at a large drug manufacturer who spends most of his downtime inhaling his favorite drug, marijuana, with pals Scarface (Diaz), Kenny (Williams) and Brian (Breuer).

When the buds suffer a killer attack of "the munchies," they send Kenny out to get food. But along the way, he is arrested for poisoning a diabetic horse, which just happens to be the partner of a New York City cop.

Unable to raise Kenny's bail, his three friends steal experimental marijuana from Thurgood's employers and sell it — using the reasoning that they aren't drug dealers, they're just "fund-raisers."

However, the successful new venture lands Thurgood in hot water with his staunchly anti-drug girlfriend, Mary Jane (Rachel True), as well as druglord Samson Simpson ("The Mod Squad's" Clarence Williams III).

None of the situations or performances are remotely funny (especially the bit about having pot-smoking apparatuses named after film stars). Surprisingly, Chappelle and Breuer are actually more annoying than Williams.

But the worst and most tasteless bit of the bunch has got to be a guest appearance by the ghost of Jerry Garcia (David Bluestein).

"Half-Baked" is rated R for profanity, a few scenes of marijuana use, vulgar gags and references, use of racial epithets, violence, both male and female nudity and brief sex (shown via a series of "snapshots").