Remember High School, the Sundance stoner comedy whose trailer was released on 4/20? Well, the movie is finally heading to theaters to poke fun at teenagers and the drug scene. The directorial debut of John Stalberg borrows heavily from the ranks of Pineapple Express and Superbad, and should garner some positive attention through its graphic language and absurd supporting characters. But even with a cast including Matt Bush and Adrien Brody, High School trips over some of the usual stoner comedy flaws.

Check out our review below…

The Players:

  • Director: John Stalberg
  • Writers: Erik Linthorst, John Stalberg, and Stephen Susco
  • Cast: Matt Bush, Sean Marquette, Adrien Brody, Michael Chiklis, Colin Hanks, Adhir Kalyan
  • Music: Harold Faltermeyer, Freescha, The Newton Brothers
  • Cinematography: Mitchell Amundsen

The Plot:

The day after soon-to-be valedictorian Henry Burke (Bush) smokes pot for the first time, his principle (Chiklis) institutes a zero tolerance drug policy and administers a drug test to all students. Henry must hash a plan to avoid failing the drug test and subsequently losing his college scholarship. So who better to team up with than his stoner friend Breaux (Marquette)? Together they steal highly potent ganja from genius-lawyer-turned-drug-dealer Psycho Ed (Brody) and spike the school’s bake sale brownies in order to make everyone fail the test.

The Good:

  • Supporting Cast: The supporting cast definitely steals the show, Psycho Ed in particular. His character is so dynamic, or just plain ridiculous. Even though he gets less screen-time than the others, he’ll be your favorite by the film’s end. Paranoid, the old lady, Brandon Ellis, and Shaky Ovante actually provide the majority of the humor.
  • Irony: The underlying, make you barely side-smile type of irony is what really pulls this movie through. Henry trying weed for the first time the day before a mandatory drug test is only the beginning in a series of ironic happenings. The events ground the movie as being — dare we say ironically realistic?

The So-So:

  • Cinematography: Although the actual filming of the movie was smooth, there were moments where the audience was meant to “feel” the effects of the characters’ impairment as they got high that didn’t really work. It didn’t help move the plot line and didn’t add to the comedy either. It may have even distracted from the rest of the film (note: the funniest parts were the ones that did not utilize this effect).
  • The Comedy: Yes, this is a comedy, and yes it had some laugh-out-loud moments, but the majority of the humor is derived from disgusting moments, especially those centered around principle Gordon. Those moments became overworked, and touched upon too frequently.

The Bad:

  • Unnoticed Plot: Plot points that are necessary for understanding the rest of the movie seem to be slipped in where we don’t notice. The important elements needed more focus, and here goes two examples (SPOILER ALERT): it’s not played up enough that Breaux and Henry used to be friends at some other point in their lives. So we lose the sense of comradeship we should’ve got from the duo. Secondly, when Breaux accidentally spills a ton of weed into the brownie mix instead of a small measured amount, we should realize such important events immediately for the plot line to make sense later on.
  • Main Characters: Stoner movies aren’t expected to have plots or characters that make perfect sense, you say? That might be so, but they should at least be credible. We’re not convinced an anxiety-ridden overachiever like Henry would suddenly reconnect with Breaux after years of not being friends. Or suddenly smoke weed on his last day of school. And we’re not really sure why Breaux decides to help Henry to the extent that he does.
  • The Moral: We recall the anti-climactic moral message that shows up near the end. The most frustrating part is that everything leading up to that moment, and then the actual part isn’t dramatic or memorable enough. The message itself lacks clarity. We wish it had been developed differently to really grab hold of that opportunity to say something meaningful beyond just another joke.


High School meets its goal as a low-key comedy that approaches the subject of teenage drug use from a new angle. The plot line is implausible, the movie as a whole is lethargic, and the humor is overworked. But Adrien Brody steals the show despite his limited amount of screen-time, making the movie worthwhile.

The Rating: 5.5/10

High School opens in limited release June 1.

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