Movie Review: High School

The great curiosity of "High School," a "don't try this at home" comedy about stoners who drug their entire high school, is the presence of Adrien Brody in the cast.

Brody, who won an Oscar for "The Pianist." Brody, who kissed Halle Berry full on the lips in celebration, who gave the most moving, most memorable Oscar acceptance speech in memory. Yup. That Adrien Brody, here in dreadlocks, with a rat-tailed beard, playing a smart, blitzed and paranoid drug grower-dealer aptly named Psycho Ed.

Of course he's brilliant at it - captured in full-lens close-up, eyes reddened and wide, with just a hint of twitch in one, signifying the manic paranoia he's developed in his years of growing, selling and using the primo pot he's famous for.

"High School" is a two-years-shelved pot-centric "Project X" without the party, a "Virginity Hit" without the obsession with virginity. It has a lot of the same elements as your "classic" stoner comedies - stolen weed, a comically vengeful drug dealer, a selfish, blissed-out character whose poor judgment threatens a straight-arrow's college future.

It has broad characters borrowed from everything from "Animal House" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" onward, but with none of their heart. It has zero potential for romance and is so focused on its pot plot that there isn't much more to it than cheap laughs - this or that adult acting stoned, kids who find themselves high and unaware of how they got that way.

Travis Breaux (Sean Marquette), helpfully addressed by his last name - "Yo, Bro" - is Morgan High School's "Pope of Dope." He travels with his acolytes, "The Daves," doesn't give a second thought on driving while intoxicated (every stop sign is ignored by every stoner in this movie), and of course doesn't care that he causes class valedictorian Henry (Matt Bush) to crash into the principal's car. The belligerent Breaux is a big-screen novelty - he's a stoner bully.

But darned if he doesn't have an unmotivated change of heart. He remembers his childhood pal, Henry, and bonds with him just long enough to get Henry, who is MIT-bound, high. And since the school has just had an episode in which its profanely named Asian-American pothead spelling bee champ weirded-out on statewide TV (funny), there will be drug-tests for one and all.

"We demand excellence, not inebriation," Principal Gordon (Michael Chiklis) huffs.

That will cost Henry his valedictorian's honor, his MIT scholarship, "my whole future." Breaux has a moment of remorse. He will save Henry. After exhausting his "cleansing kit" (gadgets, drugs, etc. intended to beat drug tests), he settles on a way to spike the school's annual bake sale, baking the entire student body and thus invalidating the tests.

The script is all about the scam. There's all manner of slang for pot to be pumped into the movie mainstream - "butt-stonked" stands out. A "cougar" is randomly introduced as a plot element; the too-hot girl next door is similarly a connection of disconnected and attractive female body parts, not a person.

Of the forgettable leads, Bush is saddled with the worst black-eye make-up this side of an "Our Gang" comedy.

There's no heartfelt bond between the generic main characters, no emotional drive or urgency or pithy observations about life and high school. "High School" only emphasizes the "high."

Chiklis, doing his best Jeffrey Jones ("Ferris Bueller's" principal), is occasionally amusing. The kids and their hijinx manage a few laughs, but not that many, considering how these magical brownies are supposed to put them all into "the fourth dimension."

But Brody, character actor extraordinaire (his Dali in Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" was a hoot), delivers the goods. When he's onscreen, the lapses in logic, the lazy stoner laugh-lines a trio of writers struggled to come up with, don't matter. He's so good you almost forget to ask the obvious:

"What was he THINKING?"



1 star

Cast: Matt Bush, Sean Marquette, Michael Chiklis, Adrien Brody, Alicia Sixtos, Yeardley Smith

Directed by John Stalberg, written by Stalberg, Eric Linthorst Stephen Susco. An Anchor Bay release.

Running time: 1:38

MPAA rating: R for pervasive drugs and language, crude and sexual content, some nudity - all involving teens

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