[Review] – High School

14 Jun

Title: High School
Year: 2012
Director: John Stalberg
Writers: Erik Linthorst, John Stalberg and Stephen Susco, based on a story by Mr. Linthorst and Mr. Stalberg
Starring: Adrien Brody, Michael Chiklis, Colin Hanks, Matt Bush, Sean Marquette
MPAA Rating: R, pervasive drugs and language, crude and sexual content, some nudity – all involving teens
Runtime: 93 min
IMDb Rating: 6.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 23%
Metacritic: 31

In the late seventies and early eighties, the Cheech & Chong movies gave rise to this whole stoner comedy subgenre, one that has most recently spawned movies like Dude, Where’s My Car? and the Harold & Kumar movies, which some see as the sort of modern Cheech & Chong. Now, the thing is that for every Pineapple Express, which encapsulates brilliantly the stoner humor and makes you laugh your ass off no matter what, there are a few films like High School, which is a stoner comedy in the sense that you could only ever find it funny if you were the one that was high, and not just because those on screen are. That’s something that I really don’t like, when a film requires you to be stoned to laugh at it, mostly because so many films would classify as good and funny films under those circumstances.

What happens in High School, a title which is, indeed, a pun, is the following: you have Henry, played by Matt Bush, who’s also in the movie I saw yesterday and that’s even worse than this one, Piranha 3DD, who’s the soon-to-be valedictorian and the guy who’s just aced his school years and who’s looking towards a really bright future. He decides, though, that for his high school experience to be really complete he should, finally, smoke some weed. The day after he does, however, the principal, played by Michael Chiklis, enforces a zero tolerance drug policy because a girl got high before going up for a spelling bee championship and caused an embarrassment, and to make a statement dictates that the student body goes through a drug test.

So you realize what’s happening here, our friend Henry’s future depending on his scholarship to MIT is put at serious risk if he fails the test. So he enlists his best friend Travis, who’s a big-time regular stoner, to help him out, and together they device a plan that wouldn’t make Henry pass the drug test, but would make every single other person at the school fail it with him. They plan to steal a super strong strain of weed from Travis’ dealer, played by actual Oscar winner Adrien Brody, the villain of the story, and they would use it to spike the brownies at the bake sale going on in school, to get everyone, school staff included, stoned and failing the test.

That’s pretty much it, by the way, High School doesn’t care for much more plot or details or anything of the kind. The whole school, staff members included, gets stoned off their asses because of the brownies. Ha ha. Like I said, this isn’t a film that you would normally find funny, because even though seriously great comedic moments can come out of people acting high, High School only shows us the people acting high and hopes that would be funny enough on its own. And it’s not. It’s not because Mr. Bush and Mr. Marquette are given seriously horrible characters and their performances are just as crappy; it’s not because Mr. Chiklis is just boring and doing nothing with his role; and it’s not because Mr. Brody just isn’t doing what a guy who won an Oscar should be doing, he’s actually very much game in this role of this guy with tattoos and horrible hair who used to be a straight-A student until he found drugs, but this role is as one-dimensional as the rest, and as such he can’t really bring anything original to it.

What’s worse is that, had this been done correctly, I think this premise could have really worked as a good stoner comedy. However, the fact remains that this is the kind of stoner comedy that’s made 100% for people who are actually stoned can laugh at other people looking stoned on screen, even if they’re not doing anything particularly funny. The film just starts ticking off every little mandatory thing you might imagine a stoner comedy should have, but it does so in the most generic and dull of ways, that not even a committed Oscar-winner can make the material work whatsoever.

High School is another film this year that I really couldn’t stand, which gets that number to 12 this year. To put that in perspective, in all of 2011 there were only 15 of those films I couldn’t stand, so maybe 2012 isn’t being as awesome movie-wise as I would initially like to say it is, no matter how amazing Moonrise Kingdom was. It’s just that this film is so damn lazy and unambitious, kind of like the filmmakers themselves had been stoned while making them, and kind of like the film acts like a marihuana on us as viewers, making a short 93 minutes seem like an eternity as we watch the events that transpire in this movie.

Let me close by saying that I really wish Adrien Brody starts knocking it out of the park again. I mean, he’s by far the best thing about High School, but this is still a tremendously crappy movie. And he was so fierce in Tony Kaye‘s Detachment from earlier this year, but the film itself was just super messy (I gave it a B-). And I just want him to be really good in a really good film again. I don’t know why he reads a script like this, which has pretty much just a basic plot outline and doesn’t evolve any further from that, leaving horrible story lines and characters up in the air, and takes the gig. Maybe he’s stoned.

Grade: D+

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