Dope (2015): It’s Hard Out Here for a Geek

Posted: June 22, 2015 in Comedy, Drama
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212076As a group of social outcasts, Malcolm, Jib, and Diggy care very little about what people think their 90s style and love of 90s music. All they care about is surviving their high school lives to reach for bigger and better things. When a chance encounter with local gangster Dom leads to meeting a beautiful girl and getting invited to a party, Malcolm thinks that he and his friends have finally got something exciting going for them. The party gets broken up and Malcolm discovers that he has a backpack full of dope the next morning and no idea what to do. Should they go to the police? Should they find Dom and give him the drugs? How can they get rid of the drugs without jeopardizing their futures?

Review: In an original story of the struggle through an adolescent life in Inglewood, Forrest Whitaker, Pharrell Williams, and Rick Famuyiwa captured a marriage between 90s themes and modern racially-themed comedy. The young talent of this film was intriguing. Shameik Moore (Malcolm) was a young kid who was easy to care about and want to see find a way out of his jam. Tony Revolori (Jib) and Kiersey Clemons (Diggy) backed up the young, geeky group who had a coolness and confidence that other young people could relate to. While much of the cast was less recognizable, they all seemed to play into the themes very well.

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The story served as both a comedy and a critical question about our current social politics. On the comedic side, the theme of the 90s seemed similar to how other films play into the 80s theme but with a very different vibe. The environment seemed to be set up to challenge Malcolm and his friends find any footing. They were a group of black/blackish kids who loved playing music that sounded closer alternative/punk. Their hormones are on overdrive, as they somehow find themselves in situations to tempt their inhibitions. Meanwhile, there are gangsters all around them that challenge their ability to hold onto their own sneakers or maybe even their lives if they cannot find out what to do with the dope.

The social politics of this film are on a different level. Malcolm challenged the audience to think about the two individuals presented throughout the story. There was the Malcolm that was an honors student, had a good group of friends, and was striving to get himself into Harvard. There was also the version of Malcolm that was stuck in a low SES part of town, worried about whether he could stay alive from day to day, and got caught up in a drug plot that led to selling dope through a very dangerous method. The surprising thing about the two versions of Malcolm were that they were one in the same. He was a smart, somewhat arrogant kid that almost got trapped by poor circumstances but negotiated a way to strive for something more. Still when hearing about the two versions of Malcolm, it would not be surprising to dissociate the idea that the former would be a black kid from Inglewood.

In a summer full of sequels and remakes, it was nice to see something a little more original with good comedy and a strong final message. Definitely one of the best of the summer so far.

Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5

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