Whenever I’m in need of a pick-me-up I tend to reach for a comedy, especially stoner comedies. Give me HALF BAKED, a FRIDAY movie, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS or GRANDMA’S BOY and 90 minutes later I’m a happy camper. Their ridiculousness, generally good-natured characters and the strange ways they get out of the oddest situations, all while having such a positive attitude always make for an entertaining time that will make me forget my worries. Needless to say when I heard the premise behind John Stahlberg’s HIGH SCHOOL, two students get their entire school high, I knew I was in for a good time.
Now HIGH SCHOOL is a complete stoner fantasy. After the school’s straight-A, soon- to-be valedictorian and MIT freshman, Henry Burke (Matt Bush), tokes up with his old friend-turned-stoner, Travis (Sean Marquette), he finds out that the principal (Michael Chiklis) is enforcing a mandatory drug test the next day at school. Anyone who fails gets kicked out and Henry enlists Travis’ help to somehow fix this situation so he doesn’t lose everything he’s worked so hard for.
And what does a stoner suggest? Well if we can’t get the drug out of your system then we’re going to get it in EVERYBODY else’s. That way everyone fails the test and no one’s the wiser. With the school brownie sale also taking place the next day, the two steal a local drug dealer’s secret stash, mix up a shit ton of special brownies, swap in their brownies and watch the chaos that unfolds.
Clearly this type of scheme could only work in a movie but it’s so much fun to witness. The two leads are the classic goody-two shoes vs. delinquent pair and they have great chemistry. They’re quick witted and have hilarious conversations as they work together to make it through the day. Adrien Brody is brilliant as Psycho Ed, the bloodshot, tattooed, cornrowed drug dealer that the two steal from. He’s constantly twitching or having conversations with his pet frog solely using the word “what” while still being a very threatening and psychotic drug dealer. Mind you he is also a former child prodigy and lawyer and his intelligence shines through the haze at the most random of times.
Leading the school in its fight against drugs is the prim and proper principal played by an unrecognizable Michael Chiklis. He’s hidden underneath a ridiculous mop of hair and mustache and completely loses himself in the role. It took me a good couple minutes to realize that was the same guy who played a hardened cop on THE SHIELD and he was easily my favorite character. The principal attempts to be this prim and proper authority figure but as more and more of the school and its administration gets high he slowly loses his cool but in the way that Ned Flanders would get upset. His anger is very contained and his outbursts are things like “peanuts and crackerjacks!”, just the silliest things someone could say out of anger, and it’s hysterical to see this big hulking man utter such polite exclamations. It’s not until the climax that we see what kind of freakiness lines underneath all the politeness.
However while all the characters are great, there are some plot holes towards the end of the film. Eventually Pscyho Ed finds out the boys have stolen from him and he demands money from them not once, but twice. Yet after the boys get it to him the first time he seems to forget his second demand entirely. Maybe it’s all the pot he’s had that made him forgot but I’ve never seen a dealer forgot any money owed to him. There’s also a love interest for Henry that is brought up very briefly in the beginning and is forgotten about the rest of the movie until the end so why even bother. At some points in the movie Travis is gone for extended periods of time as if he isn’t doing anything but enjoying the school day, which I probably would be doing too if the whole school was high but still.
Despite the plot holes, which are minor in comparison to everything else, HIGH SCHOOL was everything I hoped for. It was an out there idea filled with so many funny characters, strange plot twists and a clever ending that left me laughing hysterically and totally forgetting anything that might have been bothering me before. It went beyond being a stoner comedy and became a ridiculous, wildly amusing and exciting high school comedy that I’ll definitely be adding it to my list of pick-me-ups.