DOPE – A Review by John Strange

By: John ‘Doc’ Strange
Directed by: Rick Famuyiwa
Cast: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Blake Anderson, Zoe Kravitz, A$AP Rocky, Chanel Iman, Quincy Brown
MPAA Rating: R (for language, drug content, sexuality/nudity, and some violence-all involving teens)
Selig Rating: Matinee
Runtime: 115 Min.
In the 80’s and 90’s coming-of-age movies were totally different than what we see today.  In those days we would see a young man, usually a loner, who had limited prospects in their futures.  John Cryer’s “Duckie” (aka Phil Dale) in Pretty in Pink (1986) and John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything (1989) are perhaps my two favorite examples of this type of character/film.  The films generally had characters we could identify with.  Their goal was generally the love of a woman not college or careers.
These films sprang from minds like Cameron Crowe (Say Anything) and John Hughes (Pretty in Pink).  These films made stars of any actors and actresses, some still making films today.  But it’s the characters that still resonate with many of us who grew up in that era.
To catch the minds of today’s youth, your story has to be on a whole different level from their predecessors.  Today the story has to be loaded with the things the kids want to see.  Sex, drugs, and music all have a place in these films.
Dope centers on a young man, Malcolm Adekanbi (Shameik Moore), whose dream is to attend Harvard University.  He comes from a section on Inglewood, California called The Bottoms, an area filled with gangs and drug dealers.  He doesn’t fit in with the neighborhood or at school.  He has a band with his two best friends, Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori).  Their music, 90’s hip-hop, isn’t mainstream though it is pretty interesting (to my untrained ear).
Malcolm can’t believe that he is told he has no chance to get into the school of his choice.  He refuses to believe that local community colleges are his only choices.  He pushes forward to make his dream a reality.  Finally, he is set up with an appointment to talk to a Harvard graduate who is a local business man.
This is where the difference the years make kicks in.  The trio is forced to take a different route home from when their normal route is blocked.  They encounter a local drug dealer, Dom (A$ap Rocky), who uses Malcolm as a go-between with a young lady who lives up the street, Nakia (Zoë Kravitz).  Against his better judgment but at the urging of his friends, he agrees to go to a local club where Dom is having his birthday party. 
Malcolm and his friends are allowed into the club when Dom intercedes for them.  Malcolm, Diggy, and Jib are enjoying themselves when a rival gang starts shooting up the club.  Dom urges them to get out of there.  Grabbing the backpack he carries everywhere, the trio get out of the club.
Malcolm soon learns that there are a few additional items in the bag.  Then someone calls wanting to have Malcolm turn over the drugs to them when he gets out of school.  He is looking at them in their car and working up the courage to go meet them when Dom calls.  He was arrested at the club and the others are NOT working with him.  Malcolm and company run from the “bad guys”.  Per Dom, they are to take the goods, the “Molly” to a home in an affluent area and turn it over to the rightful owner.
Upon arriving at the man’s home, his kids invite the trio in.  The son, Jaleel (Quincy Brown) is a pretty boy with his own recording studio.  The girl, Lily (Chanel Iman) is very laidback; she gets naked in front of the strangers in her house and goes skinny dipping in the family pool.  The teens record a song.  The session is interrupted by the need for cheese fries. 
Malcolm finally meets the Harvard grad only to figure out during the interview that this man and the drug lord are one and the same.  The man, Austin Jacoby, gives Malcolm the challenge to sell the “Molly” and bring him the money if he wants the recommendation letter.
Here is another update on the old tried and true storyline.  Using a stoner friend of theirs who just happens to be a grade ‘A’ hacker, they hatch a plot to sell the product online and take payments in bitcoins.  Their plan includes setting up a fake club after school using the chemistry lab to prep the drugs for shipment.
In typical “coming-of-age” story fashion, their plan works like a champ.  Malcolm is able to present the results of the sales to Jacoby with a cash payment of $10,000.  The way that the young man ties up the loose ends totaled surprised me.  The writers did an amazing job on this script. 
There are some scenes in the film that will gross you out.  There is a bit of gratuitous nudity.  There is a bit of drugged driving.  There is some really good hip-hop music (from Malcolm’s band and the soundtrack as a whole).  All in all Dope is an ideal modern coming of age film.  It won’t win awards and it certainly isn’t for the average filmgoer.  It is a good film for older teens and young adults.  Older audiences are probably going to be offended enough times by the end of the film to leave disliking it.
The Selig Rating Scale:
FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!
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