Dope is the type of movie I wish had come out when I was a teenager. Watching as a 40-something black woman, there were moments when I wondered whether I was too old to appreciate such a Film anymore. [My tolerance for stoner comedies and gratuitous use of the n-word have declined over the years.] The movies available to me as a tween and teen were those trifecta of John Hughes films Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club. And while those films resonated with my feelings on the inside, nothing on the screen was depicted to coincide with my outer reality, including characters who looked like me.
Dope, which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, tells the story of Malcolm, a straight-A high school senior looking forward to applying and going to Harvard. He and his two sidekicks, Diggy (a girl) and Jib, are nerdy teens who like girls, computers, playing in their punk band, and 90s fashion and hip-hop. [When was the last time you saw a Cross-Colours shirt or hat?] But life for Malcolm and friends is not easy as they navigate the streets of Inglewood, California where dangers lurk in the form of gangbangers and drug dealers. Things go awry when Malcolm unwittingly ends up with a bag full of cocaine and has to get rid of the drugs, while also nailing his entrance interview and recommendation for Harvard. If I had to compare Dope to any film of my generation, it would be Risky Business, minus the prostitutes, tighty whities and that old time rock n’ roll; but just as full of all the angst and exuberance that young people experience when coming of age in the modern world. Thrown in with the comedic elements is some consciousness of the times, as Malcolm dons a hoodie, looks into the camera and asks, “Am I a geek or a menace?”
So Dope speaks for a generation that is not me anymore, but syncs up to my Youthful Heart just the same--and, unlike then, has characters who look like me. As icing to the cake, Dope also features a catchy 1990s soundtrack which put a big smile on my face. If you don’t come out of the theater doing the Humpty Dance, then something is wrong with you. Check it out.
P.S. I need someone to make a "Dopeified" version of Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink.