Dope begins by telling us the title can be described in three ways – something that’s excellent, someone who is an idiot, or slang for recreational and illegal drugs.
Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is a typical lazy teenage boy, living in a poverty-stricken area of Inglewood known as ‘The Bottoms’, who dreams of getting into Harvard, yet his idea of a research thesis paper is about trying to decipher the lyrics of Ice Cube’s song, It Was A Good Day. The faculty all think he’s a slacker but if he’s to achieve his dream, he’ll need to be interviewd by Austin Jacoby (an incredible turn from Roger Guenveur Smith where it’s impossible NOT to hang on his every word! – does he ever blink? He’s like Treguard from the ’90s kids TV show Knightmare! )
Elsewhere, he’s the go-between for Nakia (Mad Max Fury Road‘s Zoë Kravitz) – the hot girl everyone fancies) and Dom (A$ap Rocky) – the equivalent of the high-school jock) and he also lives with his single mother, Lisa (Kimberly Elise), who just happens to be rather hot. He hangs about with best friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons), the latter of whom is their only girl in the trio but since she’s a lesbian and her family are religious, they take her to Sunday School to ‘pray away the gay’. They ‘re very much like the Three Musketeers – all for one and one for all. Add in Keith Stanfield, who’s been in many things from Selma to Straight Outta Compton, adn this is a great cast working together brilliantly.
There’s a fair bit of great dialogue, mostly centred around Malcolm being a complete fish out of water at everything, but with bucketloads of virgin-like charm. For example, when asked “(Are) You Piru? …(or) Crenshaw Mafia?”, Malcolm replies, “I’m.. just.. Malcolm”.
He also gives a great definition of the term “slippery slope”, but this came across a lot better in the trailer where you could hear the words properly, but in the film they’ve used a take where he rather mutters it under his own breath.
Dope is very much like a classic light-hearted ’80s comedy where the geek is trying to get the girl, but also tries to become a winner at other aspects of life, including dealing with an accidental stash of drugs & a gun which end up in his schoolbag. However, it also mixes in its surroundings and bringing things up to date such as not being afraid to talk about gang violence and getting across that drugs are *not* a good thing to do, since you can end up rather embarrassing yourself while high.
It occasionally loses its way a little when it tries to mix drama into the comedy – thus giving the flow a few dips amongst the highs. Throw in some spoofs of Straight Outta Compton and this is a movie which succeeds more than it falters.
The film is presented in the original 1.85:1 theatrical anamorphic widescreen ratio and looks as good as a DVD can do, although a Blu-ray release would’ve been better. Compared to a Blu-ray, the DVD looks a little soft, but other than that, there are no issues.
The sound is in Dolby Digital 5.1. There’s decent audio for the music pieces, but it’s not something that’ll set your speakers on fire.
The extras, such that they are, are as follows:
- Dope is Different (3:14): A very brief piece that looks like it’s made for MTV to slot inbetween videos.
- Music Featurette (3:20): Similarly short, with added contribution from Pharrell Williams, one of the executive producers and who also wrote all the songs featured in the movie.
- Audio description: Does exactly what it says on the tin.
The menu is static and silent with just a shot of Malcolm, Jib and Diggy, so it’s very much an afterthought. Subtitles come in English, Hindi, Italian and Polish, There are subtitles and languages in a fair few apiece, all listed at the bottom of the review. Chapters are slightly more than the usual amount you get on most discs. There are 16, whereas a lot of distributors skimp on a mere 12.
Running time: 103 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
Released: January 4th 2016
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: English, Italian
Subtitles: English for the hard of hearing, Hindi, Italian, Polish
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Rick Famuyiwa
Producers: Nina Yang Bongiovi and Forest Whitaker
Screenplay: Rick Famuyiwa
Music: Germaine Franco
Malcolm: Shameik Moore
Diggy: Kiersey Clemons
Jib: Tony Revolori
Nakia: Zoë Kravitz
Dom: A$ap Rocky
Will Sherwood: Blake Anderson
Austin Jacoby: Roger Guenveur Smith
Lily: Chanel Iman
Lisa Hayes: Kimberly Elise
Bug: Keith Stanfield
Mr Bailey: Bruce Beatty
Stacey: De’aundre Bonds
Narrator: Forest Whitaker (voice)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.