If there is a compliment to be paid to this decade's answer to Cheech & Chong, the stoner comedy "How High," it is that the results could have been far, far worse. One must only direct their mind back to the wretched memories of 1998's "Half Baked" and 2000's "Next Friday
" to give them ample nightmares. Put on the same level of scrutiny, "How High" has enough funny moments to possibly create a crossover hit that anyone in the mood for a "stupid" movie may enjoy. To an extent.
Rappers Method Man (1999's "Black and White
") and Redman (2000's "Backstage") star as slackers Silas and Jamal, two potheads who find themselves getting perfect scores on their college entrance exams after smoking the herbal ashes of an intelligent, recently deceased friend named Ivory (Chuck Davis). Before they can break out their next blunt, they have arrived at the mother of all Ivy League universities, Harvard, where they plan to coast by with the help of their Ivory-induced marijuana. Things take a terrible turn for Silas and Jamal when they run out of their special ingredient and start receiving failing grades that will soon get them kicked out of the college.
Described as "Legally High" in some circles--a pun exposing the odd similarities between this film and the infinitely more entertaining and accessible "Legally Blonde
"--"How High" may surprise with a bright comedic scene here and there, but is mostly worthy of being relegated to the junk bin at Blockbuster. With the slimmest of plots and an unfortunate case of poor editing and production values, director Jesse Dylan's debut feature is a decidedly uneven excursion.
For the most part, the acting is hideous, especially for a theatrical release. The saving graces are Method Man, who has a noticeably keen presence onscreen; Obba Babatunde (1999's "Life
"), as the tight-vested Dean of Harvard; and Anna Marie Horsford (2001's "Along Came a Spider
"), as Silas' sassy mother. Everyone else, including Redman; Lark Voorhies (TV's "Saved by the Bell"), as Silas' love interest, Lauren; and Al Shearer, as gold-toothed roommate, I Need Money, are mediocre at best and painful at the worst.
A number of established veterans also make embarrassing appearances (Spalding Gray, Fred Willard, Jeffrey Jones, and Hector Elizondo) that, unfortunately, are longer than just cameos. Their casting may just have everything to do with Danny Devito, of all people, producing.
Filmed on digital video, the image would certainly be sharp if not for all of the smoke filtering into every shot. For every rib-ticklingly perverse sequence, such as one in which Silas and Jamal dig up President John Quincy Adams' grave, only to drag his corpse onto campus and puree his body parts for pot planting, the film has been cursed with ten jokes that fall flatter than a pancake. Seemingly thrown together by screenwriter Dustin Lee Abraham, the proceedings aren't quite as annoying as expected, but it has been sloppily made, and feels about twice as long as its 91 minutes. Something tells me that, even if the movie were viewed while being stoned, much of the dim-witted humor in "How High" still wouldn't fly.
©2001 by Dustin Putman