Review: High School
PLOT: Henry Burke has his entire life set out for him. He is on the road to becoming class valedictorian and then off to MIT where he will no doubt be set for life. That is until he reconnects with his old friend and current class pothead. After being convinced to partake in a little smoke out, he finds that his high school is about to have mandatory drug testing. Thanks to the school bake sale, the two decide that if the entire school is stoned then nobody will be the wiser. Bring on the pot brownies!
There is nothing like a stoner comedy to bring a big dumb grin to my face. Hell, even the bad ones usually have some sort of appeal by simply offering mindless fun. And with John Stalberg’s latest feature HIGH SCHOOL, he infuses a bit of that charm with outrageous characters and a John Hughes sensibility. It may not be a perfect film, but it is one that will connect to a number of people as so many of the great oddball high school comedies before it.
The story revolves around Henry Burke (Matt Bush) who is on his way to becoming class valedictorian. He gets perfect grades and is even up for an MIT scholarship. That is until he reconnects with his stoner pal Travis Breaux (Sean Marquette). When the two share a joint - because hey, one joint won’t kill you right – Henry finds that his future is in jeopardy. Meanwhile when honor student and spelling bee champion Charlyn Puch (Julia Ling) gets high and “Puchs” up the final word in the national spelling contest, the school’s principle Dr. Leslie Gordon (a near unrecognizable Michael Chiklis) orders mandatory drug testing for all students. In order to avoid getting punished for the school’s new zero tolerance drug policy, Henry and Travis plot to contaminate the results by serving hash brownies at the school bake sale. This school just loves brownies apparently.
HIGH SCHOOL follows a familiar pattern in regards to many a teen flick, especially one dealing with teen angst, drugs, rebellion or sex. Two kids on the opposite ends of the social scene find themselves rekindling an old friendship only to cause a little trouble and raise some hell. It helps that both Marquette and Bush are extremely likable as the stoner and the brain. Yet their bickering gets a little redundant as you begin to forget what they are fighting about each time. Thankfully the two actors are good enough to keep you invested in their drug fueled plight.
Speaking of actors, the film features a number of familiar faces including Adrien Brody as a whacked out drug dealer. Yeardley Smith, Colin Hanks, Mykelti Williamson, Michael Vartan and Curtis Armstrong also star making HIGH SCHOOL one of the most eclectic and inventively cast films of the year. Yet it is Hanks, Chiklis and Brody who really are given the chance to go a little wild with their performances. While Hanks character isn’t as out there as the other two, he is having so much fun that it’s near infectious.
Like many stoner comedies, there is not much to the plot. And sometimes the script – written by Eric Linthorst, Stalberg and Stephen Susco – meanders a bit. Many a scene feels a tad repetitive. Whether it is the constant arguments between Travis and Henry or the various scenes of the school falling under the ganja spell, you sometimes get the feeling of déjà vu. Yet through it all, Stalberg and company manage to create some creative visuals involving the paranoia and/or the ecstasy of being high, even if the sequences begin to blur into one hazy memory after awhile.
HIGH SCHOOL attains some of the spark and the clever teen camaraderie similar to such films as RISKY BUSINESS or FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF. Yet much like the classic 80’s teen flick of old, there is a sense of rebellion here that may lead to cult status. The sometimes repetitive nature keeps it from really striking a chord and living up to the earlier classics. Yet time will tell whether teens will be quoting Brody’s “Psycho Ed” ten to twenty years from now.