‘Dope’ Review: A Wild and Crazy Ride Down Memory Lane

We know there are some major blockbusters floating around right now, but audiences shouldn’t count out the feel-good comedy, Dope.

The movie follows Malcolm (Shameik Moore), a young man growing up in rough LA neighborhood, as he and his two misfit (Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons) friends try to stay on the right path, while being hopelessly dragged into predicament after predicament. Malcolm and his friends are self-professed geeks who like to rock out in their punk rock band, Awreeoh (ronounced Oreo), jam out to 90s music and focus on getting good grades, so as they spiral into more and more trouble, it’s fun getting to see them handle things the way geeks would (and getting a slight glimpse of what happens when you push one too far).

The film was way funnier than I thought it would be going in. For some reason I figured it would be more of a dramady as opposed to a straight comedy, but it definitley leaned toward the funnier side, which was a welcome surprise. While very funny, Dope also did a fine job of touching on issues facing youth of color, only this time instead of the main guy being a gang member with a heart of gold, he was a nerd with a heart of gold, a lead you rarely see played in film. The nerdy friend is usually the dopey sidekick and the black nerdy friend is damn near non-existent. But not in Dope.

As a fellow self-proclaimed geek, I loved watching a film about someone who would be considered an outcast. The film’s use of bitcoin was pretty genius. I appreciated seeing these kids handle this very touchy situation in their own way, as opposed to feeling like they had to full-on change themselves and become gangsters to handle business. Too many times in films we see the trope of the good kid needing to go bad in order to accomplish the main goal, oftentimes changing his hair, his attitude and himself as a person to do it. But not in Dope.

Now let’s talk about the film’s breakout star, Shameik Moore. While watching him onscreen, it’s easy to realize that we’ll be seeing a lot more of the Atlanta native very soon (and I’m not saying that because he’s already landed a lead role in Baz Luhrmann’s new Netflix drama The Get Down). From his honest, puppy dog eyes, to his pure and raw talent, it’s safe to say Moore has gained a loyal fan in this blogger and I look forward to seeing more of him in the future.

Memorable performances were also given by Chanel Iman, who honestly surprised the hell out of me (in a good way) with her portrayal of the super-sexual, drug-addicted Lily; Zoë Kravitz, who always gives a solid performance and is undeniably stunning; and of course Malcolm’s friends til the end, Tony Revolori and Kiersey Clemons. Both gave energetic, fun performances as Jib and Diggy, respectively. Some of you may recognize Revlori from his starring role in The Grand Budapest Hotel, while Kiersey is a relative newcomer, whom I recognized from co-starring in MTV’s short-lived thriller series Eye Candy. I’d get used to hearing these names as well.

Dope was helmed by Rick Famuyiwa, the man behind The Wood and Brown Sugar, and the film does have a touch of The Wood‘s feel to it. Between the awesome old school soundtrack filled with 90s classics, Malcolm and his crew’s style and the ever-present old school feel that setting a film in the hoods of LA presents, it’s easy to forget that the movie is set in present day. Get ready for a nostalgia onslaught!

This film is an instant favorite and classic. Famuyiwa certainly knew what he was doing in casting all relative newcomers to lead the charge. I’m not sure the film would have felt the same if it were stacked full of names we were already familiar with. If you’re looking for a light and fun film, to help liven your spirit after this week’s darkness, Dope is definitely the fix you need.

Grade: A

‘Dope’ Official Trailer and Description

A critical hit and audience favorite out of the Sundance Film Festival, in “DOPE”, Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is carefully surviving life in a tough neighborhood in Los Angeles while juggling college applications, academic interviews, and the SAT. A chance invitation to an underground party leads him into an adventure that could allow him to go from being a geek, to being dope, to ultimately being himself. Presented by Open Road Films, “DOPE” is written and directed by Rick Famuyiwa. Executive producers are Pharrell Williams, Michael Y. Chow, Rick Famuyiwa and David Lonner. Produced by Forest Whitaker & Nina Yang Bongiovi, PGA. Co-executive producer is Sean Combs. Director of Photography is Rachel Morrison. Production design is by Scott Falconer. Narrated by Oscar®-winner Forest Whitaker, “DOPE” features breakout performances by Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, and Kiersey Clemons alongside with Blake Anderson, Zoë Kravitz, Chanel Iman, A$AP Rocky, Kimberly Elise, and Quincy Brown.

Photo Credit: Open Road Films


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