film reel image

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Dope 2015 * * Stars

DopeDirector: Rick Famuyiwa
Year: 2015
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Shameik Moore, Kiersey Clemons, Tony Revolori

In 1991, Morris Chestnut played Ricky Baker in a John Singleton movie (you know the one). Cut to 2015 and you have virtual lookalike Shameik Moore playing Malcolm in Dope (my latest review). Currently, a lot of people are comparing it to Risky Business. I digress but there's one thing that's apparent. "Business" made Tom Cruise a star and I think Dope could do the same for Moore. His performance is the highlight in this otherwise, overrated swipe on high school comedy/drama high jinks. To paint a picture, Dope is disappointing and it has a 90's hip hop aroma that's full tilt. Oh I almost forgot, somewhere somehow, Kid (of Kid n' Play) desperately wants his hi-top fade back.

Shot by a native of Inglewood, California (where the goings-on take place), featuring a scene where a young female pees in public via a drug fueled haze (ugh), and showcasing various, cocksure characters who reluctantly fade in and out of the storyline, Dope focuses on three best friends. They are Diggy (played by Kiersey Clemons), Jib (played by Tony Revolori), and Malcolm (played by Shameik Moore). They aren't the coolest cats in high school but a chance visit to an underground party, gives them the opportunity to make lots of money selling drugs online. On the side, they have to deal with various thugs, smuggle powder (some kind of cocaine mixture I guess) through school security, and keep up with their schoolwork (college applications are waiting). And while all this is going on, Forest Whitaker (one of Dope's producers) does some uneven narration in the beginning only to never be heard from again (was this necessary, I'm thinking no).

Now Dope was a favorite at this year's Sundance Film Festival. I myself, became irritated by how its lead was kicked around and treated like a wilted pinata. What's on screen is mean-spirited, off-putting, and filled with characters who overact while coming off as unwitty. Just picture another L.A. tone poem registering as an urban Go (1999) and a more filthier version of Superbad. The cinematic techniques here by director Rick Famuyiwa, consist of flashbacks, split screens, and some other off-kilter camerawork. That's all fine and dandy except that the editing by Lee Haugen (Dear Sidewalk), is so choppy it robs said techniques of any real exhilaration. What's left is an annoying drug pusher exercise by which sagacious nerds get their day.

In conclusion, you have 103 (overlong) minutes that critics have relegated to salivate over. Why you ask? Because every aspect seems original or dissimilar. I for one, am not on board. If the art of stereotyping is the intention towards getting through to an audience, then this vehicle is par for the course. Bottom line: You don't get any kind of buzz or natural high from Dope's incessant clamoring. All that occurs is a comedown or crash. Am I saying that these proceedings are a bit depressing? Not really. Am I saying that they're in a word, apathetic? Yeah that's it. The result: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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