Dope is a film that was marketed very well, which is a rare case in these modern times. 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 to go to a movie thinking I had it all figured out only to realize that I didn’t know the half of it.
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 character of Malcolm may be the best character I have seen in a movie this year. This is a character driven film and a strong main character is its strength, as it should be. Shameik Moore does a good job in this role, but he was very fortunate to have such a terrific character to portray. He seems like a real person. He is a geek, but not the stereotypical geek we generally see in movies. He has a lot of confidence in some ways, which is one of the things that gets him in trouble in the film. He has a demeanor about him that is very likeable but he has flaws. Writer/director Rick Famuyiwa should be commended for creating such a tremendous character.
This is a very original screenplay. That can be both good and bad. In this case it is mostly good. It’s basically a dialogue driven film and most of it is very engaging. On the other hand, there are scenes in which the dialogue is not all that good, which stands out in a film that is paced as deliberately as this one is. For the most part, it is a good, original, well written film.
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. In fact, I would say it is probably the funniest movie of the year so far.
My biggest problem with the film is its tonal issues. It can’t decide if it wants to be a light teen comedy or a very heavy drama. It felt a bit manic at times. I think some of that was because of the editing, which was all over the place. Also, there was a major aspect of the plot that I didn’t really get. This made the second half of the film feel a little disjointed.
I thought the ending of the film was very good for the most part. It went in a different way than I was expecting. The messages, which were delivered brilliantly in very heavy handed fashion in the final act, were on point and relevant. There was one line at the end of the movie that bothered me. It brought up a racial issue that was absolutely not necessary and hadn’t entered into the film at all up until that point. Other than that, I thought the ending was spectacular.
This movie caught me completely by surprise. That is a good thing. It had its share of problems, but the originality and effort that was put into it makes up for a lot of that. This is a movie that is certainly worth seeing and one that I will most likely watch again. The Movie Man gives it 3.5 out of 5 stars.
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