Half Baked (1998)

(On Cable TV, September 2015) Stoner humor is such an absurdly specific subgenre that it can feel both juvenile and hermetic to non-stoners.  Given that I live a personal life so clean as to make even straight-edgers feel ashamed of their depravity, I’ve never been much of a good audience for stoner movies.  But I chuckled a few times during Half Baked, and I think it’s because the film almost tries to become an anthropological study of stoners, thus making it a bit more accessible than the usual tripe under that category.  The story is thin: When a pothead gets incarcerated, his friends end up raising bail money by… selling weed.  But on this scaffolding is built a few profiles of stoner types (most of them surprising cameos, from Jon Stewart to Snoop Dog to Janeane Garofalo), some comic exploration of the dirty business of selling drugs and a fairly convincing portrait of their lives.  There are, despite the juvenile nature of the film, a few good jokes in there: enough to keep me amused throughout, and not being exasperated at the film as I expected.  Dave Chapelle helps a lot in making the film fun; so does Rachel True as the sort-of-voice-of-reason.  The last thirty minutes are a bit too heavy on pot and not as heavy on wry observations, but that’s fine given that by that time, Half Baked has already proved to be more enjoyable than it ought to have been.

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