Malcolm and his two best friends are obsessed with the 90s and play in a throwback punk band inspired by the hip hop era they love. But their style and their desire to go to college set them apart in Inglewood: they’re a trio of high school geeks. Trying to stay under the radar and out of trouble is their goal, until they find themselves unexpectedly in possession of a gun and a large amount of drugs that are definitely not theirs.
Part road trip to return the loot before someone kills them for it, as well as part underdog story as the band makes it big and they find a way to stick it to the man, Dope seems a little confused as to what it wants to be. But it’s always unexpected, bright, fast paced, different. And with music by Pharell Williams, its soundtrack is vibrant and catchy.
The film offers some interesting alternatives to typical ghetto narrative clichés, with the trio jokingly referring to themselves as being white, since they want to go to college and like things that are not traditional. But in essence, like much of these stories, the female characters are sexual or romantic objects, with little to no logical motivation or character development.
We have a smart love interest who is inexplicably tied up with a drug dealer, though she appears to not be interested in drugs herself, a woman who appears naked for most of her screentime for no obvious reason, and a lesbian, who could be an interesting character but has little development. Although the plot is varied, it does all feel a bit pedestrian, with some scenes dragging a little and some jokes falling a little flat.
However, this film still has some nice touches that make it stand out from the crowd. Malcolm is a smart kid. He and his friends are creative and determined, even though they’re out of their depth, and ultimately come out on top through using their geek knowledge rather than violence or cool dialogue. They’re not typical, stereotyped black characters, being neither Blaxploitation heroes nor gangsta cool. They're 90s-obsessed nerds who want to go to Harvard.
EXTRAS: Just two featurettes – Dope Is Different and Music