16 August 2010 | scotchtape
Excellent addition to the stoner canon
Smoking makes most everything funny, and many will have a go-to selection of movies that pair especially well with pot. It's surprising, then, that movies about weed don't automatically fit into that category. If you've ever been sober in a room full of smokers you know that watching other people get stoned just ain't that funny, and it's even more difficult for a movie to impart a contact high.
Fortunately, High School straddles the divide between "stoner movie" and "movie to watch while stoned", because it's very, very funny. The plot is a lean, generic high school story - Henry (Matt Bush) is the straight-A valedictorian, tempted astray just before graduation by stoner and one-time friend Travis (Sean Marquette) after a chance accident lands them in detention. Henry tries pot for the first time, just as Principal Gordon (Michael Chiklis) is about to call for a school-wide drug test after a spelling bee incident embarrasses his school's good name. Henry and Travis plan to foil the drug test by getting the whole school high on drug savant Psycho Ed's (Adrian Brody) ultra-potent supply.
The setup is goofy but handled lightly and with a relatively straight face, which already distinguishes the movie from pure stoner material like How High or Cheech and Chong. The laughs come early and often, not relying too much on stoner tropes (although they're around if you want 'em) or character mugging, but on good, old-fashioned gags. The pace is a little uneven, perhaps because the script runs very tight around the speedy storyline, but the comedy is not.
Brody is given plenty of space to go wild; by the end his influence on the film is much bigger than his screen time. The same could be said on a lesser scale for Colin Hanks as vice-principal Brandon and Yeardley Smith as a teacher, who do typically fine jobs. Bush and Marquette, the two young leads, hold up their end of the bargain very well.
This is a movie that deserves to find wide distribution. If Pineapple Express, a perfectly entertaining movie in its own way, can find a decent audience, then for this to be left on the shelf is criminal. If you get the chance and you're even remotely curious, see it. Once again: it's very, very funny.