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It was Half Baked which helped springboard Dave Chappelle’s career into the mainstream world, and subsequently to superstardom. While he had done successful films before this one, such as Con Air and Robin Hood: Men in Tights, he was one of the headliners on this particular movie. He has since gone on to a wildly successful show of his own. Ironically Jim Breuer, then a cast member of Saturday Night Live, was probably the more famous celebrity at the time; unfortunately his career has taken a downward turn since the release of Half Baked as opposed to Chappelle’s turn of fortune. Released in January of 1998 to a meagre box office response, Half Baked found it’s audience on the home video and cable market. After being given a bare bones DVD release a few years ago, Universal has now rewarded fans with a new release with a brand new set of extras.

Half Baked: Fully Baked Edition
Film
Half Baked centres around four friends, Thurgood (Chappelle), Brian (Breuer), Scarface (Guillermo Diaz), and Kenny (Harland Williams), who have grown up together smoking marijuana, and continue to do so as adults living together in an apartment. Kenny, a kindergarten teacher, is given the task of getting snacks after the group’s latest indulgence in the drug. He mistakenly kills an officer of the law in the process and ends up being held in jail with a one million dollar bail set. Thurgood, who works as a janitor at a medical facility, in the midst of trying to come up with a way to free his friend stumbles upon a project there where medicinal marijuana is being grown. He and his friends decide to start stealing this endless stash of pot and start selling it to raise the ten percent of Kenny’s bail needed to free him.

To add some conflict to the plot, Thurgood becomes friendly with a woman he meets ironically named Mary Jane (Rachel True of The Craft). Being in avid opposition to the use and sale of pot, Thurgood struggles to keep his extra curricular activities secret from his new girlfriend. Some of the biggest laughs in the film come from the wide variety of celebrity cameo appearances sprinkled throughout. From Willie Nelson, to Snoop Dog, to Bob Sagat (who gets the best laugh of the entire film), the cameos add another level of excitement to this surprisingly charming film. Sure most of the humour is sophomoric or immature, but that doesn’t mean it’s not funny. Low brow humour is to be expected in a comedy centred around smoking pot. Fortunately, there are also clever comedic elements in here as well that compliment some of the more vulgar humour.

Half Baked: Fully Baked Edition
The four main cast members are very likeable and very funny in their roles. Chappelle plays the straight man (or the closest thing to it in a group of potheads) who generally is the voice of reason in the group. Breuer is the wacky, over the top character which is common in this type of film. Williams and Diaz are the yin and yang characters, one being calm and gentle while the other being a bit more hot tempered. The reason why this ensemble cast works so well in the movie is because they get a fairly equal amount of laughs, meaning that one character doesn’t really outshine the others. If I had to pick one for my favourite, it would be Harland Williams. His calm nature in the jail setting is genius—and just wait until you see his singing performance in the prison shower.

The only real issue that I have with the film is that many of the gags lose their effectiveness with multiple viewings of the movie. Speaking for myself, the multiple viewing value is very low which takes away from the score of the film. To be blunt (yes, pun intended) Half Baked is a very funny movie but the lasting appeal just isn’t there. Nonetheless, it’s a fun hour and a half in the comedy genre.

Half Baked: Fully Baked Edition
Video
This anamorphic 1:85:1 transfer of Half Baked does not disappoint. The marvellous colours are vibrant from start to finish, with contrast levels balanced well throughout. Bright images are stable with no examples of bleeding. Black levels are good and the level of detail is generally exceptional. Excessive grain can be seen in a couple shots, along with a couple instances of a soft picture. Other than that the video transfer is flawless. No haloing from edge enhancement is present and thankfully no pixilation is present either. Overall this is an excellent effort and the end result of the video transfer reflects that. It is easily placed in the upper echelon of Universal DVD releases in terms of video transfer quality.

Audio
We are given several options in how we wish to watch Half Baked: a 5.1 DTS track and a 5.1 Dolby Digital track (in addition to French and Spanish stereo tracks). There isn’t much to be said about either of the sound options. The sound is very front oriented with the dialogue being the prominent focus of the mix. The musical score written by Alf Clausen (you’ll know his work on The Simpsons) comes across very clear and is balanced well against the other sounds. Neither track has an edge over the other in my opinion, with no issues prevalent worth mentioning. In summary, this is not bad, but not on the same level as the video quality either.

Half Baked: Fully Baked Edition
Extras
Those of you that were disappointed in Universal’s first DVD release of the film will have little to complain about this time around. In this Fully Baked Edition we are given a wide variety and high quantity of extra material. First and foremost there are ten deleted scenes, some of which are extensions of scenes already in the film. The video quality is crude and unfinished, which mirrors the quality of some of the scenes. There are a couple very funny spots, but most are best left out. In addition to the deleted scenes is an alternate ending to Half Baked. Like the deleted scenes the video quality is very crude and there are even some filler shots in there as well. I thought this take on the ending was too drawn out, but is certainly worth a glance.

Three featurettes are also part of the disc starting with ‘Granny’s Guide to Bakin’. This is a pseudo-instructional feature which will teach those interested how to make those crucial snacks when you have a case of the munchies. Five Minutes with ‘The Guy on the Couch’ is just that: five minutes watching a person sleep on a couch. Both of these extras are worthless and only take up space that could have been used for outtakes or a theatrical trailer (both of which have been omitted). The third featurette however, is quite entertaining. Different Types of Smokers is a series of animated looks at the various types of pot smokers, some of which are mentioned in the film.

Production notes and a director’s commentary round out the extras on this single disc release. Tamra Davis—whose breakthrough work was on Billy Madison—gives a very ordinary insight into the making of Half Baked. Her lack of enthusiasm takes away from the quality of the track, but still manages to through in some interesting titbits here and there. In a perfect world Universal would have been able to get cast members Chappelle, Brewer, Williams, and Diaz to participate in the commentary, but no such luck. Overall a very good set of extras has been placed on the disc, and should appease the appetites of fans.

Half Baked: Fully Baked Edition
Overall
Half Baked: Fully Baked Edition is without question worth a double dip for those who own the previous release; overall this is a commendable effort by Universal. The price, the video quality and volume of extras are enough to warrant re-buying the film. Those who have held out for a special edition release will not be disappointed either. This is by no means a family comedy, but high school and college students will find a great amount of entertainment value in the movie. Those in the aforementioned age group can blind buy this with satisfaction, while others who have not seen it would best be suited renting it first.


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