Well-intentioned but jarring at times, “Dope” is a teen morality tale about just how hard it is for inner city black kids to rise out of their impoverished circumstances.
But the film is disjointed, and at times downright creepy, if not irresponsible. We all know that high school kids are budding sexual beings, and that inner city youth must navigate pitfalls that suburban kids only see, well, in the movies, but in “Dope” the filmmakers justify and glorify the sale and distribution of Molly, a dangerous street drug, as if it were no big deal.
If this were a drama, it might fly, but “Dope” wants to be a teen coming-of-age comedy, like “Super Bad,” but never comes close. The three young unknowns in the lead roles do a credible job, but are so free and loose with the R-rated dialog (relating to sex, body parts, drugs and the liberal use of the “N” word), you wonder if they were 30 years old and not 17.
Shameik Moore, 21, plays ‘90s hip-hop obsessed high school senior Malcom, the nerdy leader of his pack of three misfits who inadvertently end up as drug dealers. Tony Revolori, as Jib, is one of the only two recognizable actors in “Dope.” Revolori starred as Young Zero in Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
“Workaholics’ star Blake Anderson adds some comic relief and rapper Akim “A$AP Rocky” Mayers shows real potential and acting chops as Dom.
“Dope” was a Sundance Film Festival darling, and received rave reviews, generally, but this is not film all will call “dope.”
What do those stars mean?
* Really, really, really bad. Don’t bother.
** Pretty bad, with one or more redeeming scenes.
*** Pretty good, but maybe not great, worth seeing for most
**** Really great, a winning combination of story, casting, and directing
***** The rarest gem, an all-around perfect motion picture