Movie Review: High School
Length: 100 minutes
Release Date: January 24, 2010
Directed by: John Stalberg
Stars: 4 out of 5
What do you get when you mix an Oscar-winning actor, a first-time director, and a group of relatively unknown teenagers? You get a laugh out loud stoner comedy like "High School." In his full-length film, director John Stalberg creates a comedy along the likes of "Dazed and Confused" or "Half-Baked." Imagine a movie that mixes the high school comedies perfected by John Hughes ("The Breakfast Club") with modern drug-related humor, and you can almost imagine "High School."
Henry Burke (Matt Bush, "Piranha 3DD," "Adventureland") is a bright high school senior with his whole life ahead of him. After receiving the highest marks in his school, he earns the title of valedictorian. His whole life changes when he randomly runs into his classmate Travis (Sean Marquette, "13 Going on 30," "Surviving Christmas"). Travis has a bad reputation in school because he spent so much time smoking marijuana that he will barely graduate with his class.
Travis hears through the grapevine that their principal wants to institute mandatory drug testing. The principal, Dr. Leslie Gordon (Michael Chiklis, "Eagle Eye," "Fantastic Four"), worries that too many teens in his school use drugs and threatens that those who fail will not graduate. Travis knows that he will never pass the drug test, so he convinces Henry to smoke pot with him. Of course, as soon as they finish smoking, they hear that the school will follow through on its drug testing policy.
Instead of admitting what they did, they create a plot to bring down the whole school. Psycho Ed (Adrien Brody, "The Pianist," "Midnight in Paris") is a local drug dealer who earned his nickname because he goes a little crazy sometimes. When Travis and Henry discover that Psycho Ed has a powerful extract of THC, they decide that the best thing to do is steal it and spread it around school. They come up with a plan to get everyone to use the extract so everyone will fail the drug test, making them safe. Once they manage to steal it, they find their whole world coming down as a crazed drug dealer discovers their secret plot.
"High School" is like "The Pineapple Express" for a younger audience. In that movie, James Franco ("Spiderman," "127 Hours") and Seth Rogen ("Superbad," "Observe and Report") played two stoners who accidentally found themselves trapped in the world of underground drug dealing with comedic results. Henry and Travis are like the younger versions of the characters played by Rogen and Franco.
From the opening scenes, "High School" gets the viewer caught up in the movie. The movie introduces the audience to a high school student participating in the championship spelling bee. When she smokes marijuana before the big event, word leaks out and the principal creates his drug testing agenda. The movie then introduces Henry, but his early scenes are nearly forgettable.
Once he meets Travis, the movie completely changes. Bush and Marquette have the kind of on-screen chemistry that makes you think they must be best friends in real life. Watching the movie, you can almost imagine the two of them smoking in-between shooting their scenes. One of the best moments comes when Marquette suddenly begins speaking in a perfect Jamaican accent, making jokes about drug dealers.
Anyone who watches "High School" will find that Brody has some of the most memorable scenes in the movie. Though Brody had roles in some comedies before, he is at his best in this one. With his bloodshot eyes and dreadlocks, he looks like the kind of drug dealer anyone would fear. When he opens his mouth, everything that comes out is comic gold.
While Bush and Marquette have some great moments, some of those moments come about with secondary characters. Assistant Dean Brandon Ellis (Colin Hanks, "The O.C.," "Lucky") plays his scenes to perfection, while Yeardley Smith ("The Simpsons") pops up playing a teacher obsessed with Brian Adams. Chiklis is another actor who showcases his comedic acting chops in this one. With a bad toupee and a fake accent, he's almost unrecognizable on screen.
Far too many comedies make the mistake of showing the best scenes in the trailers, but that doesn't happen in "High School." While some of the jokes are a little too broad and some of the jokes fall flat, it has more than its fair share of laughs. Some viewers might feel like the jokes are the ones they heard before, but with the great acting and unusual characters, "High School" offers a fresh take on the stoner comedy.