If you’ve seen 1998’s “Half Baked,” you’ve likely imagined quitting your job in a fashion similar to the way Scarface (played by Guillermo Díaz) leaves his gig flipping burgers.
The scene is but one of many memorable moments from the stoner comedy that today enjoys cult status with fans. That’s thanks largely to Dave Chappelle, who not only starred as “master of the custodial arts” Thurgood Jenkins but also appeared as the deranged rapper Sir Smoke-a-Lot and co-wrote the film with his “Chappelle Show” collaborator Neal Brennan.
Ironically, the popularity of the film stood in contrast to Chappelle’s well-documented issues with the form “Half Baked” ultimately took. Speaking with James Lipton of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” in 2014, Chappelle elaborated on his stance.
“’Half Baked’ didn’t come out the way I wanted it to come out,” he said at the time. “I was real upset about that, [because] it was a real cool script. And then I saw it. I was like, ‘Hey, man, you made a weed movie for kids’ and it wasn’t for kids, the script, you know? It was all these things and so much pressure.”
Regardless of Chappelle’s grievances, the movie faced initial rocky returns before finding new life as Comedy Central’s “Chappelle Show” introduced the titular comedian to a wider audience.
Unfortunately, the man many would argue is the main attraction of “Half Baked” will not be returning for a recently announced sequel. Well, in truth, the news isn’t so much an announcement as a bit of financial proof that “Half Baked 2” has legs.
On Monday, June 29, the project was one of a dozen selected by the California Film Commission to receive a share of $40 million in tax credit allocations. According to Paste, the rules of the tax credits stipulate that a production must begin shooting within 180 days of receiving an allocation, so technically the movie should be underway shortly.
Brushing aside the practicalities of filming anything in the midst of a global pandemic, the project will not be wanting for lack of a script as actor-director Justin Hires, star of “MacGyver” on CBS, previously announced on Instagram that he would be penning the project. That post, from December, included an admission from Hires that the bar was, to fully intend a pun, set very high.
“Excited to announce I’ll be writing the sequel to ‘Half Baked,’” his Instagram post noted. “Yes, I know the original is a classic and yes this sequel will be [fire] because I’m writing it. Oh yeah, I write screenplays too.”
While the news of Hires’ prowess as a screenwriter may be exciting to Hires himself, it seems a poor substitute for the singularly topical, innovative, and hilarious talents of Chappelle. Regardless, the bigger issue facing any possible “Half Baked” sequel may not actually be the absence of a comedian who now churns out big specials for Netflix on the regular.
Instead, the largest obstacle exists in the form of an unanswered question: how does one make “Half Baked” work in a world where weed is legal?
To be fair, our current landscape is not one in which weed is legal for all. Even in states where medical or recreational markets have been established, issues like access and resource allocation continue to inhibit pipelines intended to streamline BIPOC entrepreneurs into the cannabis space. Even in New York City, the setting for the original “Half Baked” (although most of it was filmed in Toronto), efforts to legalize recreational cannabis continue to flounder.
Case in point: there’s not much humor to be found in the situation. While Chappelle did a brilliant job of humanizing cannabis smokers while also satirizing them, such efforts are now arguable redundant.
If “Half Baked” felt like a secret look inside the world of stoners, today that world is no longer a secret. Thus, instead of trying to breathe new life into a film that has no valid context in 2020, why not make something else? It can’t be that hard, and if it is, at least there’s a blueprint to be followed when it comes to finding a new line of work.