Dope Movie Review
Apparently I’m dumber than the 96% of critics who liked Dope, the new comedy (drama?) from writer/director Rick Famuyiwa. Because I just didn’t get it.
That’s not entirely true. I was into Dope for a while. The movie is about three geeks who live in the hood, who have horrible taste in fashion and prefer reading books to gangbanging and the like. Funny stuff. Shameik Moore is great as the awkward, wide-eyed protagonist Malcolm, his performance reminiscent of something out of Famuyiwa’s 1999 mini-classic The Wood. Tony Revolori and Kiersey Clemons make for a strong supporting cast, and the various other characters they encounter along their journey make for a quirky, unpredictable and often entertaining experience.
For a while, Dope is funny. Even when Malcolm discovers that a gang leader has stashed a bunch of drugs in his backpack, setting into motion a series of unexpected events, I was into the flick. Malcolm’s encounter with Lily (Chanel Iman) is priceless, and that’s just one of many off-the-wall moments scattered throughout the story.
Unfortunately, about halfway through the movie, it stops being funny. Not entirely, and not necessarily intentionally, but it loses its zest. I more or less stopped laughing. Worse, I stopped having fun. Dope starts to get more serious, and the film devolves into a poorly assembled crime drama that is boring as sin. I stopped caring, and I stopped being entertained.
Dope is just all over the place--it isn’t clear what type of movie Famuyiwa intended to make. Was it supposed to be a comedy through and through? A drama with comedy? A crime flick? A satire on race? The final wants-to-be-a-Spike-Lee-joint scene, while well written, doesn’t jive at all with the rest of the movie.
In short, Dope is a bit of a mess.
The audience seemed to react well to the movie. And 96% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes apparently liked what they saw. In fairness, the movie is entertaining… until it isn’t. Maybe I’m just dumb, or maybe… just maybe… Dope just isn’t as dope as everyone thinks it is.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.