Sundance Review: HIGH School
There are many surface details that tell you just how much HIGH School aims to be the new century's Ferris Bueller's Day Off. There's Michael Chiklis, donning a bad hairpiece and mustache, doing his best Jeffrey Jones impression as the unctuous principal. There's the Ferris-and-Cameron duo of the nerd (Matt Bush) and the rebel (Sean Marquette) brought together to execute a series of epic pranks. And there's HIGH School's attempts to replicate the listlessness and yearnings of adolescence, which don't really work because the genius John Hughes isn't behind them-- but that doesn't take away from HIGH School's many, many stoner charms.
Set in world where people can be honestly named Charlene Phuc (you can guess how it's pronounced) and some kids getting stoned become the biggest problem at a school, the movie gladly joins the ranks of high school comedies that assume every kid fits in a type and all it takes is one big dreamer to change the status quo. Henry (Bush) is the MIT-bound genius who has taken his first toke on a joint just a day before the school institutes mandatory drug tests, while Breaux (Marquette) is the different kind of genius stoner who comes up with a foolproof plan: ruin the test by getting the entire school stoned.
The plot requires stealing a canister of premium THC from the local crazed drug dealer (Adrien Brody, over the top but making it work), maneuvering past the salutatorian narc who wants to rat them out, and all kinds of ludicrous plot points that somehow work, probably doubly so when you're stoned. And of course surrounding them is an entire high school full of stoned kids, home to some of the movie's best running gags and as well as a few too many tired plays on stuffy looking teachers being totally baked.
What's really a shame about HIGH School is that it's such a crowdpleaser for a large crowd, but is probably best enjoyed with some sort of illegal substance in every audience member's hand. The movie will inevitably get picked up by a studio looking for the next Harold and Kumar, and hopefully there's an enterprising theater out there willing to risk the wrath of the cops to give a few hundred people the baked time of their lives. HIGH School isn't exactly Harold and Kumar-level genius, but it is worth the legal risk.
For more of our Sundance 2010 coverage, click here.
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