Rated: R for language, drug content, sexuality/nudity, and some violence-all involving teens. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: June 19, 2015 Released by: Open Road Films
A new colorfully frenzied, freewheeling caper tale from Rick Famuyiwa is his best since the indie The Wood over fifteen years ago, which for some, may be a hodgepodge of pics like Boyz N' The Hood and House Party. One that has a fresh, even comedic teen verve and verisimilitude with a keenness that the late John Hughes incorporated into some of his memorable work from three decades ago. Hopefully, it will provide the kind of word-of-mouth that will spark interest outside urban venues during a sweltering season.
A heavily incidental Dope is set around a hardly affluent black Inglewood, CA area with high-school senior Malcolm (a very natural, effortless Shameik Moore) in a punk band called Oreo with "all about white stuff" close chums Jib (Tony Revolori of The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons). Like when it comes to mores, bikes and preppy aspirations. Jocks and gangbangers, among others, including dealers, have a good ole time harassing them during and after school.
Malcolm's happenstance with the manipulative, celebrant dealer Dom (ASAP Rocky) surrounding the latter's birthday party turns into an unexpected brouhaha at a club, the kid with a single working mom (Kimberly Elise) and Ivy League aspirations nobly assisting the cornrowed, trying to get her GED sweetie Nakia (Zoe Kravitz) to refuge. But, Dom had placed something in his backpack that creates a precarious situation with the trio embroiled in some humorous, swift misadventures (like hightailing it from a fast-food joint) before a little dramatic didacticism settles in. As Dom, for a while ends up incarcerated with dangerous thugs in pursuit of what Malcolm has, worth six figures.
Back-up thespians include Roger Guenveur Smith as a key Harvard representative, a lascivious Chanel Iman who tests the desirous fellows, Quincy Brown as a rich youth with an area for Oreo to manifest their punk musicianship, and Blake Anderson as the versatile, 'Bitcoin' savvy Will when selling becomes a priority.
Slick, yet not too earnest, Dope navigates around viral exposure with piquant line readings and much to be amused about even if the narrative hits a cinematic gauntlet. It's clear that Moore is a find and has more than enough bling with his colleagues, like the alluring Kravitz (who may look like a title character from a John Singleton flick).
The vivid widescreen lensing and, notably, the editing shrewdly uses freeze-frames and split-screens to augment the vivacity of what Famuyiwa and his collaborators so ably fill each frame with much craftsmanship that complements the casting from varying mediums. The production amidst the fixations and retro rap milieu overcomes the tremulous tangle of cliché and demographic (as geeks rise to the fore) with a capriciously catchy soundtrack influenced by the talented Pharrell Williams and other artists, besides a couple of tracks from an oddly delicious and delightful Oreo.