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High School
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by Peter Sobczynski

"As Drug Movies With Chiklis Go, This Is No "Wired"
1 stars

The trouble with most stoner comedies, as many people have noted in the past, is that in order to find them even remotely funny, the viewer generally needs to be as baked as the characters on the screen and once that saturation point has been reached, practically any film imaginable will inspire an astonishing number of giggles. This is not to say that films featuring stoners cannot be funny--such classics as "Dazed and Confused" and "The Big Lebowski" immediately stumble to mind--but the ones that do work are those that offer viewers more than the sight of people lighting up and acting like goofs. However, with perhaps the single exception of Cheech & Chong's reasonably amusing 1978 screen debut "Up in Smoke," most pot comedies are tedious riffs on a single joke--someone getting stoned and endlessly assuring everyone that they are indeed stoned--and for those poor unfortunately souls who attempt to watch them with a clear head and clean urine, they can be a chore to sit through. However, as bad as such films have been over the years--I will let you pick your own narcotized nadir in this regard--I cannot immediately recall one as absolutely crummy as "High School," a cheapjack craptacular that desperately wants to be the next "Superbad" but which only winds up coming across as merely super-bad. This is so awful and so bereft of anything resembling a comedic sensibility that it almost feels as though it were put together by the government as a way of demonstrating how smoking the reefer can ravage the creative process. Alas, this is nowhere clever enough for that to happen--this is just a load of garbage that is about as potent as an oregano-stuffed joint that has been accidentally dropped into a half-full can of Dr. Pepper.

As the film opens, an ordinary California high school nearing the end of its term is rocked by the revelation that its spelling bee champion appeared at her last match toasted to the gills. As a result, evil Principal Gordon (Michael Chiklis) suddenly decrees that every student will have to undergo a mandatory drug test the next day--during final exams, no less--and anyone who fails it will be immediately expelled. (No, it doesn't make any sense even by the elastic legal benchmarks previously set by stoner comedies but just go with it.) This is a problem for class valedictorian Henry (Matt Bush) because a random encounter with former friend Breaux (Sean Marquette) in detention hall (again, don't ask) has led to him sampling his very first joint just before hearing about the principal's edict. With Henry's scholarship to MIT now in jeopardy, he and Breaux try to figure a way out of their predicament and finally hit upon a seemingly brilliant idea. They will replace the brownies destined to be sold at a bake sale at school the next day (man, that is one busy last day of school) with pot-laced brownies of their own creation--the assumption being that if the entire student body eats the brownies and subsequently blow their drug tests, all the results will be tossed out and Henry will be saved. To pull this off, the two steal some high-grade THC extract lovingly harvested by local drug dealer Psycho Ed (Adrien Brody. . .yes, Adrien Brody) and, perhaps inevitably, they wind up putting way more of the extract into the batter than is necessary. The next day becomes an ever-increasing comedy of errors (devoid of actual comedy, of course) that finds them trying to get the entire student body surreptitiously stoned while avoiding Principal Gordon, Psycho Ed and an academic rival of Henry's who discovers that something is up and attempts to use that information to replace him as class valedictorian.

As I suggested earlier, one does not enter into a straightforward stoner comedy expecting thoughtful plotting and Oscar Wilde-like witticisms. However, even viewers with a fondness for this particular sub-genre are likely to be stunned by the sheer slovenliness of the proceedings. It isn't just that the film itself isn't funny (though it never is) as much as it is that director John Stalberg seems to have no idea of how to present comedic ideas, even bad ones, in a cinematic manner. Virtually every scene is suffused with the cinematic grace and elegance of a convenience store security camera presented in such a plodding manner that the film feels as if it is actually suffering from a barbiturate overdose. (After watching the film for nearly an hour, I checked my watch to see how much time was left and discovered to my horror that only 17 minutes had actually elapsed.) Furthermore, the two kids that are meant to be our heroes are obnoxious and unlikable enough to give the twerps from "Project X" a run for their money in terms of sheer loathsomeness and the fact that the film openly celebrates their jerkiness (not to mention their poisoning of their classmates and the way that Henry gets to pass English and win the girl of his dreams with a final speech in which he dismisses Shakespeare as "massively overrated" while denouncing Hamlet's soliloquy) leaves an exceptionally skunky taste in the mouth. That said, some of these problems might have been overcome if the film actually contained any laughs but outside of the inadvertent one of an end-of-year high school history class only just getting to the Boston Tea Party (did the teacher take the inspiration for his lesson plan from "Memento"?), there are simply no laughs to be had here--not only is this drug-related film not as funny as the likes of "Pineapple Express," it isn't even as funny as "Midnight Express."

For those hardy souls who somehow manage to make it to the bitter end of "High School," an experience that will feel as though it has lasted a full four years instead of its actual 90-odd-minute running time, there will be questions afterwards. Why did anyone think that this was a project worthy of producing in the first place? Why, after spending a couple of years sitting on the shelf, did someone decide that now was the time to unleash it upon an unsuspecting moviegoing populace? Considering that we see people tucking into them throughout the course of the entire day depicted in the film, did the guys literally make a zillion of them or are do they possess a propensity for self-replication on a scale not seen since the swimming pool scene in "Gremlins"? However, the question on the minds of all this film's victims is sure to be "What in sweet filthy Hell are Michael Chiklis and Adrien Brody doing in a film like this?" These are two talented actors and established stars and the fact that they would voluntarily torpedo their credibility in the artistic community on something this awful is stunning--even more so since their performances are arguably the worst I have ever seen from them and bear in mind, I have seen both "Wired" and "Giallo." Did they lose bets? Were they deluded into thinking that they were signing on for a remake of the acclaimed Frederick Wiseman documentary of the same name? Did they literally have nothing better to do with their lives than to screw around on a crapburger of a caliber this low. Whatever the reason, both of them should have heeded the immortal words of Nancy Reagan and just said "No!," a sentiment that anyone who pays to see this dog will no doubt be sharing as well.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20130&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/31/12 20:49:31
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2010 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2010 Austin Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/26/10 Fredrick Krinkle This movie rocked! This reviewer is a square nerd! 5 stars
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  01-Jun-2012 (R)
  DVD: 04-Sep-2012


  DVD: 04-Sep-2012

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