I thought I knew what to expect from the movie, but I had no idea to what depth this film would go. The trailers were very good, showing enough to draw interest while not exposing too much of the plot. It was very refreshing.
The story is about Malcolm, a high school senior who lives in a rough part of California. Malcolm is, by his own admission, a geek. He spends his time hanging around with his two geek friends, dressing like it’s 1990, and working toward getting into Harvard. This is Malcolm’s life until he makes a foolish decision that changes everything.
The movie is highly entertaining. It is funny in a realistic way. No matter how bizarre the situation, it seems like something that could actually happen. This is not a straight comedy by any stretch of the imagination, but there are still plenty of laughs to be had. Dope features many things that make independent films so refreshing from big-budget Hollywood films. There’s an energy and heart here that’s absent in many feature films today. You can tell this was a project where those involved had a drive to bring their vision to the big screen. While the John Hughes-esque story of teens getting into trouble is familiar, the focus on a geeky African-American in an urban climate manages to make it feel somewhat fresh and relevant in today’s social climate. It takes advantage of it’s environment and does and excellent job of capturing urban L.A.
The other strong area of the film is it’s performances. The three leads all are great and have fantastic chemistry with one another. Shameik Moore is fantastic as Malcolm carrying the film with his charisma. This dude has a strong career ahead of him. The supporting cast is good as well, the highlight being Blake Anderson who I normally can’t stand stealing every scene he’s in. These characters are not only great because they are fun, but they also feel realistic and actually sympathetic. The writing is grounded and witty along with some good social commentary about identity. Oh, and the soundtrack is one of the best I’ve heard in a film this year.
The movie carries some problems. Tonally, it’s very uneven. It’s ambitiousness results in it feeling like 3 or 4 different movies put together. It’s not so much that I had a problem with where the story was going, but rather that the transition is sloppy. The story is also rather predictable, especially in the 2nd half which isn’t as strong as the 1st half. Towards the end, the social commentary which I actually didn’t mind for the most part starts to get preachy and heavy handed which felt out of place as well.
Even though Dope doesn’t quite live up to the Sundance praise it received, it’s still a very good film and one of the most enjoyable I’ve seen this summer. It’s great performances, energy, and fresh- take on the genre overcome it’s predictable plot and unevenness. Overall, I’d say that Dope is in fact pretty dope.
Dope gets a 7.6/10.