High School

by Jake Mulligan

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday June 1, 2012

A still from "High School"
A still from "High School"  

You couldn't convince me to enter this "High School" again if you offered me all the weed in the world. A shockingly stupid attempt at recreating the hallucinatory hijinks that drove films in the Cheech and Chong series, this "High" falls flat. Its aims are low - it simply wants to entertain stoned kids with silly puns and overdone running gags - but it fails as a comedy, as a weed movie, and simply as entertainment.

Henry Burke and Travis Breaux are two friends pulled apart by the eponymous experience, Burke driven to academic success in a chase for valedictorian status, while Breaux spends his days burning joints and hanging out with his dope-head friends. So when "Dean" Leslie Gordon (Michael Chiklis, who surely has better things to do than film such garbage) decides to institute a school-wide drug test and expel all the offenders, Breaux and Burke - who enjoyed this first ganja session together the day before - realize there is only one way to mask their positive results. They need to get the whole school high.

This kind of cheap, nonsensical plot went out of fashion with "Up In Smoke" - I still even hold my opinion that the "Harold and Kumar" series, at least at first, was satirizing movies like "High School" and not imitating them. But unfortunately, such amateurism is par for the course. The rest of the script is equally lazy, leaning on easy clichťs like "evil principal" and "evil Indian peer" as antagonists (and giving the female lead, by my count, less than 20 words of dialogue. Not 20 lines, 20 words.)

A still from "High School"
A still from "High School"  

The cinematography here is so drained of color and lifeless that it feels like a Christopher Nolan movie; each character washed out in a laugh-absorbing shade of grey. The sound design is non-existent, the set-design is laughably cheap; I'm shocked the film even found theatrical distribution considering its 'school-project' presentation. And don't even get me started on the acting: it's obviously horrid, but it's also incredibly disappointing. Adrien Brody shows up as vicious weed dealer Psycho Ed, constantly forced to act like he hears the voice of a frog in his head (not an exaggeration.) Here's a man who gave a riveting, soul-baring performance in this years release "Detachment," and has that relegated to video-on-demand services while this hammy gag opens in theaters. Sometimes, the state of the movie industry can be very depressing.

But the worst part is that the film, for all its pandering, isn't even going to satisfy potheads. It's a fact often forgotten by the producers of such films: no matter how much weed you smoke before the movie, a dumb joke is still a dumb joke. And hell, the movie isn't even supportive when it comes to marijuana - which, let's be honest, isn't even a taboo anymore, considering its widespread decriminalization and even more widespread public use. "High School" attacks drug embellishment - asking you to laugh at school videos that suggest all people that smoke marijuana end up in straight jackets - but then engages in equally dangerous exaggerations, showing its characters mindlessly babbling, unable to stand up straight, and generally acting like they've been injected with a dose of heroin after a single toke.

The drug movie has evolved, but no one told the people who made "High School." You can't just make 'pot movies' anymore - you can make pot-genre movies, like "Pineapple Express," or you can try to find an original skew on the material, like in Gregg Araki's "Smiley Face," or you can use it as a character detail, like in this years earlier release "Jeff Who Lives At Home." But the days of people smoking pot then watching movies just because the actors in them smoke pot? It's a relic of a bygone era; a niche act that's quickly gone mainstream in a world where rap stars puff blunts on stage. Something like this should've gone to VOD or DVD, where its audience could at least indulge in a smoke or two while watching it. As it stands, this "High School" isn't worth a visit from even the least discerning tokers.