Dope Review: Coming of Age in the Bad Neighborhood

Photo Credit:

It must be summer. Sure, two films, one involving big CGI dinosaurs and the other coming from Disney, dominated the box office this weekend. But on a smaller scale, summer also means small coming of age movies. Though, you haven’t seen one quite like Dope.

Taking place in the rough suburbs of Los Angeles, Dope asks the same questions of The Way, Way Back and The Spectacular Now in a high-crime environment. We follow Malcolm (Shameik Moore), a timid high school senior that loves Game of Thrones as much as MC Hammer. He and his other two smart friends have high hopes of getting out of their hometown, with Malcolm leading the charge with an application to Harvard.

Dope isn’t the story of a noble teen who’s going to do the right thing to get into a good school. Malcolm plays by the rules of his environment to get ahead. It’s a much more authentic feeling story than we usually get out of with this set up. That’s because the film feels aware of the struggles of a geeky teen in a high school that needs a metal detector at the front door.

But Dope also never forgets its funny bone. Moore gives one of the first breakout performances of 2015, with an awkward charm and strong comedic timing. The pacing of the rest of the film can be a little shaky, especially when it’s balancing screwball comedy and crime drama, but the end result is something that satisfies just the right amount. Come for the laughs, stay for the strong character moments and much needed representation of this world in this genre. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *