By Chris Nashawaty
June 18, 2015 at 06:26 PM EDT
  • Movie

If you poured Kid ’N Play’s House Party into a cocktail shaker, added a dash of Risky Business, and snapped your wrists for a hair under two hours, you’d end up with something like Rick Famuyiwa’s fizzy inner-city caper Dope. Shameik Moore stars as Malcolm, an earnest high school brainiac in the Inglewood section of L.A. who’s obsessed with “white s—” like skateboards, comics, and Donald Glover. Narrated by Forest Whitaker (one of the film’s producers), the comedy takes off after Malcolm and his two best friends (Kiersey Clemons as a tomboyish lesbian and The Grand Budapest Hotel’s Tony Revolori as a deadpan worrywart) get drawn into a drug handoff gone sour. A local dealer (A$AP Rocky) hides his stash in Malcolm’s backpack, and now the geek has to turn gangsta to get out of the mess before his big Harvard admissions interview. Famuyiwa, who previously directed 1999’s The Wood, keeps his goodnatured coming-of-age tale racing at a breakneck clip for the first two-thirds. Then the wheels start to buckle as he tries to pile on too many ridiculous detours and preposterous characters. When I first saw the film at Sundance back in January, I was smitten by its giddy, retro “Humpty Dance” spirit, but I also assumed that some of its fat would get trimmed before it hit theaters. No such luck. Dope is still an irresistibly frantic and fun crowd-pleaser. But it’s a crowd-pleaser that could’ve used more focus. B

2015 movie
  • Movie
  • R
  • 115 minutes
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