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Marshall Fine

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Movie Review: High School

Posted: 05/29/2012 7:37 am

The temptation to make lots of marijuana-derived jokes would be a lot stronger if High School, an alleged stoner comedy, were actually funny.

But this half-baked enterprise, which has been sitting on the shelf for the two years since it played the festival circuit, isn't just stale -- it's lazy. Director John Stalberg Jr. and writers Eric Linthorst and Stephen Susco operate under the misconception that all stoned behavior is funny and rarely take the gag further than that.

While that may be true if you're sitting around getting high with your pals and goofing on each other, you're probably only funny to each other. To everyone else, you're just a meandering, slow-talking bore.

No doubt the creative minds behind High School thought they were on to something with their one-line premise. Well, OK, it's one line if you string it out and punctuate it correctly:

High-school valedictorian smokes pot for the first time during the last week of school, then discovers that the principal will do drug screenings the next day and expel anyone who fails, thus endangering smart kid's scholarship to MIT.

Wait, there's more: So smart kid teams up with the school's top stoner (a childhood friend), the same one who got him wasted for the first time, to enact a plan. They'll get everyone in the school stoned, thus invalidating the drug test. To do this, they have to steal the super-powerful resin from the stash house of a dangerous drug dealer, use it to season brownies and substitute their brownies for the baked goods at a high-school bake sale -- because, of course, everyone in the school is guaranteed to eat at least one brownie in this fantasy.

Oh, and if you use the word "baked" often enough, it will become funny by itself. Or not.

Unfortunately, hilarity does not automatically ensue. Letting actors look dazed and having them giggle is not the same as actually writing comedy. And for a valedictorian, this kid isn't particularly quick-witted with the quips; neither is his stoner partner.

The valedictorian is played by Matt Bush (who goes through the entire film with one of the least convincing-looking cinematic black-eyes of all time). His stoner pal is played by Sean Marquette. These are two actors whose names I don't expect to have to remember. As for Michael Chiklis and Colin Hanks, well, they'll survive High School.

The drug dealer, by the way, is played Adrien Brody in braids (including his beard) and lavish fake tattoos. Brody apparently believes that squinting like Popeye is intrinsically funny and counts as acting. But it's not as funny as being an Oscar-winner who shows up in a commercial for razor blades. (Are you listening, Gael Garcia Bernal and Andre 3000?)


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