Happy Anniversary to ‘Half Baked’, The Stoner Cult Classic

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My first experience with Half Baked was over my grandmother’s house in 2000. A friend from school – who had stolen the VHS from his brother – let me borrow it, and I was determined to watch. Upon arrival, I ran upstairs to the playroom, popped the video in the VCR and starting watching. As any concerned guardian would do when they see a child running, my grandma followed me upstairs. And much to my surprise, without speaking, she sat down and started watching the movie with me.

My grandmother was a devout Christian who attended church multiple days a week but she had a genuine transparency and was unabashed in sharing her vices and past transgressions. When the film ended, she told me about her years of smoking cigarettes and how they had affected her health. She spoke of her regrets, how she would’ve made different choices and what path I should take to avoid those same mistakes. And then, she told me she really enjoyed the movie. Later on that day, my mother picked me up and told me that my grandmother had spoken to her about what we watched that afternoon. My mother wasn’t happy, but what was most interesting was that my grandmother had told her, “Quenton was watching a movie about marijuana, and it sucked“.

That entire situation, in a sense, sums up Half Baked perfectly: it’s hilariously relatable, but people don’t like to admit they like it for the sake of retribution.

Most people assume that Half Baked was Dave Chappelle‘s breakout role, but it was almost universally panned when it released in 1998. To this day, the movie has a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and CNN promptly declared Chappelle’s career over. It wasn’t until years later that the film gained its cult classic status. After revisiting the movie, Half Baked does feel slightly disjointed, but that only enhances its appeal. There’s a lot to like about the film: the celebrity cameos (Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson – even Bob Saget!), an insanely-convincing Jim Breuer, the clever and sometimes-erratic script and the off-kilter scenes that occasionally foreshadowed what we’d see later on Chappelle’s Show. And Chappelle just radiated charisma as a natural comedy star and while watching, you knew he had the chops and intelligence to become one of the best comedians of our time.

Apparently, the story behind the film is just as entertaining as the movie itself. Pitch to production happened super fast: Chappelle and longtime collaborator Neal Brennan pitched the film idea to Universal Studios with no script written, and they were on-set by July. But when production started, people stopped listening to their ideas, resulting in a movie that didn’t depict what they originally pictured. Because of these hiccups, Brennan stated that he’s not fond of the film, which he elaborates on in last year’s The Breakfast Club interview.

Despite their indifference towards the final product, Half Baked serves as a pioneer for stoner films as one that doesn’t require its viewers to be high to enjoy. Below, I’ve included a few of my favorite clips from the movie. Take a look, and let us know in the comments if you have any fond memories from this cult classic.

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