It's time to rethink the influence of television on American cinema. Specifically, the role "Saturday Night Live" has played in killing comedy movies.
Unfortunate Exhibit A: "Half Baked," a mirthless, stoned-buddy movie starring marijuana, Dave Chappelle and "SNL" player Jim Breuer, based on the notion that a scattering of cultural references and over-the-top characters can sustain a one-joke plot.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday January 22, 1998 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 52 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
Movie rating--The film "Half Baked" is rated R for pervasive drug content, language, nudity and sexual material. A review in Monday's Calendar did not list all of the reasons for the R rating.
Chappelle is the only spark of life here, perhaps because he co-wrote it, and plays the only weed-head with half a brain and an ounce of motivation. He gives evidence of having an interesting, nervous kind of movie energy. But yo, yo, yo, Dave. Weren't you hip, man? What are you doing involved in this limp, predictable less-than-sitcom of a movie. It's a bomb, man, not the bomb. If you think this is what you have to do to get major multiplex screen time, you're reading the wrong press clippings.
"Half Baked," which Universal Pictures did not screen for critics, is billed as a Cheech & Chong movie for the '90s, as if every decade demanded one. The film finds a grass-blowing trio engaged in selling drugs--yes, even to children--to raise bail money for a fourth roommate in prison for killing a police horse.
Who knew the horse was diabetic and couldn't handle a couple of shopping bags full of sweets intended as munchies? This allows us to meet a handful of cameo smokers including Snoop Doggy (dope-rapper Sir Smokesalot) Dogg, Willie "In the Old Days, a Dime Bag Cost a Dime" Nelson and Janeane "I Can't Write Poetry Until I Get High" Garofalo. Steven Wright wakes up briefly as the Guy on the Couch.
To spare you the search for a moral to this smoky, tie-dyed tale, there are two ways to take "Half Baked." You can be outraged that a major studio still thinks pot is funny enough to sustain a movie--including a scene in which our friends try a particularly potent toke and seem to fly out the window to good vibrations. Or you can be certain that anyone who sees the sad losers involved in this enterprise will never smoke anything again.
At just under 90 minutes, "Half Baked" seemed to take a lot longer. Days and days, man.
* MPAA rating: R, for language. Times guidelines: Fleeting nudity and street talk is nothing compared with a drug-laden plot that should keep parents responsible for young viewers on guard.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Dave Chappelle: Thurgood
Jim Breuer: Brian
Guillermo Diaz: Scarface
Clarence Williams III: Sampson
A Universal Pictures presentation. Director Tamra Davis. Producer Robert Simonds. Screenplay by Dave Chappelle & Neal Brennan. Cinematographer Steven Bernstein. Editor Don Zimmerman. Production designer Perry Andelin Blake. Costume designer Vicki Graef. Music Alf Clausen. Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes.
* In general release throughout Southern California.