Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 90% (Critics) / 86% (Audience)
Directed By: Rick Famuyiwa
Written By: Rick Famuyiwa
Starring: Shameik Moore, Zoë Kravitz, Kiersey Clemons, Tony Revolori and A$ap Rocky
Studio: Open Road Films
Synopsis: Life changes for Malcolm, a geek who’s surviving life in a tough neighborhood, after a chance invitation to an underground party leads him and his friends into a Los Angeles adventure. – (Source)
The urban coming of age teen comedy is a pretty under-represented subgenre (with 90s films like THE WOOD and THE INKWELL being standouts) and I am pretty happy that DOPE is representing so splendidly.
The cast is pretty spot on especially the three primaries in Shameik Moore, Kiersey Clemons and Tony Revolori as the crew of self-proclaimed geeks who do not fit in at all with the rough and tumble Inglewood, CA neighborhood they live in. Moore is especially good in the lead as he is called on to do a lot of the heavy lifting and appear in nearly every scene. he is a charismatic young actor with a very appealing demeanor that makes you want to like him almost immediately. And rapper A$ap Rocky was quite a surprise to me, showing much better acting chops than I would have expected.
Writer/Director Rick Famuyiwa shows a lot of potential (think Spike Lee after SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT) and I am expecting big things from this talented guy in the future as this film’s critical success propels him onto bigger films.
I like Zoë Kravitz as an actress but if I were casting for an “around the way” type of hood chick she is not the going to be in the top 10 of actresses I would call.
The films also tended to suffer a bit from moments of unneeded preachiness or political leanings that represented the writer’s personal stance on things but really did nothing to further the narrative of the films and instead seemed out of place and indulgent.
Some of the resolutions the film came to seemed a bit pat and shallow and not at all what a film with so much energy and panache deserved. A bit more weight being added to the film would have been very welcome.
Final Verdict: A stylish coming of age tale with a large dose of urban grittiness added to it that features some interesting performances and a fun energy that hooks you from the start. It does tend to be both preachy and a bit vapid at times but overall it is a really good effort from a new voice and provides a showcase for a criminally unsung subgenre of film. Definitely worth the trip to the multiplex.