Dope (2015)

Dope (2015)
  • Time: 115 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama
  • Director: Rick Famuyiwa
  • Cast: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Zoë Kravitz


A coming of age comedy/drama for the post hip hop generation. Malcolm is a geek, carefully surviving life in The Bottoms, a tough neighborhood in Inglewood, CA filled gangsters and drugs dealers, while juggling his senior year of college applications, interviews and the SAT. His dream is to attend Harvard. A chance invitation to a big underground party leads Malcolm and his friends into a, only in Los Angeles, gritty adventure filed with offbeat characters and bad choices. If Malcolm can persevere, he’ll go from being a geek, to being dope, to ultimately being himself.


  • In 1991, Morris Chestnut played Ricky Baker in a John Singleton movie (you know the one). Cut to 2015 and you have virtual lookalike Shameik Moore playing Malcolm in Dope (my latest review). Currently, a lot of people are comparing it to Risky Business. I digress but there’s one thing that’s apparent. “Business” made Tom Cruise a star and I think Dope could do the same for Moore. His performance is the highlight in this otherwise, overrated swipe on high school comedy/drama high jinks. To paint a picture, Dope is disappointing and it has a 90’s hip hop aroma that’s full tilt. Oh I almost forgot, somewhere somehow, Kid (of Kid n’ Play) desperately wants his hi-top fade back.

    Shot by a native of Inglewood, California (where the goings-on take place), featuring a scene where a young female pees in public via a drug fueled haze (ugh), and showcasing various, cocksure characters who reluctantly fade in and out of the storyline, Dope focuses on three best friends. They are Diggy (played by Kiersey Clemons), Jib (played by Tony Revolori), and Malcolm (played by Shameik Moore). They aren’t the coolest cats in high school but a chance visit to an underground party, gives them the opportunity to make lots of money selling drugs online. On the side, they have to deal with various thugs, smuggle powder (some kind of cocaine mixture I guess) through school security, and keep up with their schoolwork (college applications are waiting). And while all this is going on, Forest Whitaker (one of Dope’s producers) does some uneven narration in the beginning only to never be heard from again (was this necessary, I’m thinking no).

    Now Dope was a favorite at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. I myself, became irritated by how its lead was kicked around and treated like a wilted pinata. What’s on screen is mean-spirited, off putting, and filled with characters who overact while coming off as unwitty. Just picture another L.A. tone poem registering as an urban Go (1999) and a more filthier version of Superbad. The cinematic techniques here by director Rick Famuyiwa, consist of flashbacks, split screens, and some other off-kilter camerawork. That’s all fine and dandy except that the editing by Lee Haugen (Dear Sidewalk), is so choppy it robs said techniques of any real exhilaration. What’s left is an annoying drug pusher exercise by which sagacious nerds get their day.

    In conclusion, you have 103 (overlong) minutes that critics have relegated to salivate over. Why you ask? Because every aspect seems original or dissimilar. I for one, am not on board. If the art of stereotyping is the intention towards getting through to an audience, then this vehicle is par for the course. Bottom line: You don’t get any kind of buzz or natural high from Dope’s incessant clamoring. All that occurs is a comedown or crash. Am I saying that these proceedings are a bit depressing? Not really. Am I saying that they’re in a word, apathetic? Yeah that’s it. The result: 2 stars.

    Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

    Check out other reviews on my blog:

  • Quickie Review:

    Life in Inglewood is tough, but for Malcolm (Shameik Moore), a geek obsessed with 90s hip-hop it’s even tougher. After visiting an underground party hosted by gangsters, Malcolm crosses upon an unwanted package. This leads him and his friends on a dangerous adventure filled with oddball strangers. Dope is a witty comedy the breaks down the expected stereotypes. The trio of main actors have a natural chemistry of close knit high school friends, from loyalty to friendly ridicule. This is an adventure that has many laugh-out-loud moments to enjoy.

    Full Review:

    I am not well aware of the cast and director. However, trailer sold me on an energetic comedy that explored the issues of racism. Happy to say it delivered on my expectations.

    I talk a lot about the importance of actor chemistry in my reviews, and this movie is a great example of doing that right. Shameik Moore, Kiersey Clemons, and Tony Revolori all worked really well together. With already a smart script the comedic timing of the cast is what brought the fun in the movie. Just the way in which they interact you can tell how strong their friendship is, and so you are rooting for them through all the shenanigans. Especially Shameik Moore surprised me on how well he portrayed a geek. He never overplays the stereotype of being a nerd, it’s all in the subtle things that he does that we see him as a misfit. As for the shenanigans the gang goes through, at times it gets non-sensical, and in that non-sense hilarity ensues. In many ways it reminded me of Superbad, but a little darker. Additionally the soundtrack of the movie was excellent, it kept up the energetic flow of the movie.

    The faults of the movie are small but apparent. A lot of the movie is dependent on long scenes of dialogue, but this doesn’t always fit well with the tone of the film. One example that stands out is the meeting with the drug-dealer. To show how creepy that character is the actor overacts and it pulled me out of the movie. So there are few moments where the supporting cast overact which diminishes the clever tone of the movie. Also Dope has some mixed messaging in terms of how success should be achieved. I’d go into more detail but that’d involve some spoilers.

    Overall, Dope is well-directed and -acted film that covers issues of discrimination and stereotypes in a sharp comedic way. Shameik Moore was the stand-out performance of the movie, and I hope to see him in more films in the future. If you are looking for a dark-comedy with colourful characters, then look no further than this adventure.

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