Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is a young, black, geeky, high school student living in Inglewood, CA. He dreams of going to Harvard, but due to where he lives and the people around him, he is laughed at every step of the way. When Malcolm is invited to a party where a girl he likes will be attending, he shows up with his 2 best friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons). When a deadly shooting takes place at this party, Malcolm winds up with a gun and drugs in his backpack. Not knowing what to do, Malcolm takes the drugs to where he is told, but when the drugs are opened and used by some people who find them, Malcolm is held responsible. Armed with his smarts and a high school chemistry lab, Malcolm and his friends need to get their hands on some replacement drugs before they end up dead.
Dope might seem like a high school comedy at first, but as the movie moves along, it becomes a coming of age story as Malcolm learns to get what he needs. This movie is a unique brand that I don’t think I’ve seen before. With a mixture of drama, comedy, teen issues with drugs and racial views, Dope isn’t going to appeal to everyone. In fact, it took me a second viewing in order for me to get a grasp on what I wanted to say here… and I still am having trouble forming an opinion.
I can safely say that the story is one that I haven’t see much before and because of that fact, many will welcome that. The situations feel real and I enjoy how Malcolm is able to overcome obstacles by using his brain. I could have done without the gang activity and the drugs, but without that, I think the uniqueness is lost. All the characters are likable as they add a layer of charm to the story though the comedic situations. The scene between Diggy and Will about the “n word” is one of my favorites in the movie. Having no correlation to each other, I feel that Dope and another movie in the genre, Dear White People, have very close ideas and concepts. If you liked one than I’m sure you will like the other.
I believe that because of the clever end, I enjoyed this movie more than I normally would. The way Malcolm solves his problem with the drugs is pure genius and the letter he writes to Harvard reminded me of the letter read out loud at the end of The Breakfast Club. It is personal, real, and special.
I think the main problem with Dope is that there isn’t anything memorable about the plot or story that makes it stand apart from many others. Sure the story is one of a kind, but there isn’t a lot that keeps it fresh in the mind, and that is its only downfall. It needed something big and popping to keep a scene or two stuck in our heads and it fails in that regard. It doesn’t mean that this movie isn’t good or entertaining, but I just am not sure about the longevity of the film.
At the end of the day, I think Dope is a quality film with many layers to dissect. It is funny, dramatic, racial, and edgy all at the same time. It takes many issues and crams them together for Malcolm to face with the help of his friends. I think that if coming of age films are your thing, than this will not disappoint. Just understand, Dope is not a screwball comedy about drug deals, it is very serious at times and tackles important issues. Co-starring Blake Anderson, Bruce Beatty, Chanel Iman, Forrest Whitaker, Kimberly Elise, and Rakim Mayers.
7/10 Stars – Dope is a mixture of genres that range from goofy to serious in this coming of age film that has questionable longevity.