Homefront movie
7.25 out of 10
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie
8.75 out of 10
Disney's Frozen movie
10.0 out of 10
Delivery Man movie
6.75 out of 10
8.25 out of 10

Sunday, May 27, 2012

High School


Rated: R  Some nudity, all involving teens, pervasive drugs and language and crude and sexual content
Release Date: June 1, 2012
Runtime:  1 hr 40 mins

Director: John Stalberg, Jr.
Writers: Erik Linthorst, John Stalberg Jr., Stephen Susco
Cast:  Adrien Brody, Michael Chiklis, Colin Hanks, Matt Bush, Sean Marquette, Adhir Kalyan, Michael Vartan, Curtis Armstrong, Yeardley Smith

SYNOPSIS: When valedictorian Henry take a hit of marijuana with former friend Travis in a fit of uncertainty and panic, he freaks out when he hears that the school principal has scheduled a school-wide drug screening the next day. To save his future, he must work with Travis to concoct and carry out a daring scheme to get the entire student body and faculty high.

REVIEW: John Stalberg, writer and director of High School and the 2005 Mr. Dramatic, he teams up on writing duties with Lemonade: Detroit writer Erik Linthorst and odd choice The Grudge and The Grudge 2 scribe Stephen Susco to attempt to create the next new stoner movie for a new generation, following in the foot steps of Dazed and Confused, Fast Highs at Ridgemont High, and Pineapple Express.
Soon to be high school senior valedictorian Henry Burke (Matt Bush, Adventureland) agonizes over every academic decision, desperate to be sure to be an attractive prospect for MIT. Former best friend current heavy stoner Travis Breaux (Sean Marquette, 13 Going on 30) takes it upon himself to hang with Henry to find out when and how their childhood friendship ended. Talking Henry into going back to a ramshackle tree house where they used to hang out and where they had hidden a 'time capsule' with all of their most treasured childhood knick knacks. Finding a joint, Travis tries to loosen Henry up by having him get baked on the joint. Meanwhile, tight-ass principal Gordon (Michael Chiklis, Eagle Eye) has had enough with stoners and miscreant behavior at his school under his rule. He decides to institute a school wide drug test the next day with the punishment of a positive urine sample being immediate expulsion. Hearing about this upcoming drug test on the news, Henry freaks out and spirals into a panic about his finals and the jeopardy of destroying his life's work with a few hits of a doobie. Travis concocts a plan to ruin the results of the drug test by stealing a potent synthetic drug called Keef from a genius, lawyer-turned-drug dealer Psycho Ed (Adrian Brody, Midnight in Paris), baking the powder into brownies to be used in place of the school moms' baked goods for the annual fundraiser sale on the day of finals and the drug tests. As the students and facility alike are enjoying the swapped batch of brownies, Travis and Henry must contend with the normally paranoid Principal Gordon, the enraged Psycho Ed, bad-tripping students and teachers, the looming drug test, and the questionable strength of their former friendship.

Stalberg and team take a more modern approach to their stoner movie. With the advent of a new millennium the importance and obsession of superior high school grades to cement a positive future is as much an addiction as the pungent smell and smooth ride of a superior grade of grass. The puckered posterior and moral rigidity of Henry stands polar opposite of Travis' free-wheeling and low-key existence, but both are fueled by their own addictive obsessions. There are usually cliques in these films - nerds, jocks, stuck up beauties, and of course stoners - but this time the focus seems to be on the highest aspirations and the highest inhalations.

Everyone is on top of their game, even in the film has been finished and shelved for some time. Adrien Brody shows again why he is an Oscar winner. His turn as the early graduating, law bar passing straight arrow whose marijuana and LSD laced adventure on vacation expands his mind to the opportunities of drug dealing and synthetic drug making as paranoid Psycho Ed is inspired and hilarious. Michael Chiklis' plays Principal Gordon as the overbearing and stuck up academic overlord like a man savoring the taste of every word before he utters it - something completely different from his The Shield role. Colin Hanks charms as he tries to placate and rebel against Gordon as assistant principal Brandon Ellis, using his Orange County conservatism and his substance abuse chops from Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny in combination. Matt Bush and Seam Marquette become an intriguing new odd couple as Henry and Travis, riffing off each other with typical new millennial teenage angst. Facility Yeardley Smith (New Year's Eve), Michael Vartan (Colombiana), and Curtis Armstrong (Buck Larson: Born to Be a Star) lend a hand with quirky brownie induced shenanigans.

>Following the formula of teenage high school movies - straight arrow student led astray by miscreant friend, putting them in a dilemma, and having to follow through with a hair-brained scheme against 'The Man' to get themselves out of trouble again (you know, the usual!) - John Stalberg, his creative writers, and the brilliant cast make for an absurd and hilarious adventure. On paper, some of the scenes are nowhere near as side-splitting as how they actually turned out. A shared hit of marijuana on a darkened smoky room with Psycho Ed and a frog in a terrarium ends with audience members chanting the same word over and over again, like a buzz-induced mantra. It hearkens back to a 'Who's on First' caliber sequence! When Travis tries to keep Psycho Ed distracted with a barrage of fronts (the Urban dictionary describes Fronting as 'Acting like you are more, or you have more than what really exists'), it continues on for just the right time for maximum laughs. I even realized later that Henry wasn't calling Travis 'Bro' because of a misguided sense of trying to fit into the stoner's group, because, in fact, that was how Travis Breaux's last name is pronounced. Genius!

What is teenage life without conflict! In High School, conflict abounds. Henry battles to keep his own future from deteriorating by schewing the drug tests. He and Travis battle against the iron-fisted rule of Principal Gordon. When Psycho Ed finds out that Henry and Travis stole his highly potent Keef, the pair must find a way to make amends or find full payment for the drug dealer and his slacker crew. And to top it off, rival valedictorian runner-up Sebastian Saleem (Adhir Kalyan, Rules of Engagement) figures out Travis and Henry's plan to bake the school with misdirected baked goods and looks to blow the whistle to Principal Gordon unless Henry promises to take a dive in his last final exam, thus giving Saleem the highest GPA and the title of top student. Is there even a way for Henry and Travis to pull off a win?

High School
 may be just another in a long line of teenage angst movies, but for me there was more than enough laughs and hi-jinks to carry the day. Filled with tear-inducing fun, multiple conflicts to overcome, and an eventual self-realization of a what a teenager should become, High School is worthy of a look, as long as you can hold your breath while racing through the smoke-filled rooms! And, by the way, can you tell me where the school office is? Are you kidding me? Whut!

WORTH: Matinee, DVD, or Rental

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