Sundance critics appear to be as delighted with Rick Famuyiwa‘s Dope as the Open Road and Sony execs who’ve paid $7 million for the rights plus a $15 million p & a commitment. It’ll almost certainly be a hit — a just reward for being a snappy (i.e., jizz-whizzy), cartoonish, wild-ass Inglewood ‘hood action farce about friendship, guns, ’90s sounds, romance, sellin’ somebody else’s cocaine, gangstas, bullets flyin’, gettin’ into college (hey, maybe Harvard) and foxy, model-esque girls flashin’ that come-fuck-me look at hapless geeks with “who me?” gee-whiz expressions (in this instance Shameik Moore), and one of those hotties, drugged way the fuck up, stumbling across a busy street and then pissing outdoors in the shrubbery of a faux-Starbucks and the incident getting covered big-time by local TV news. Of course!
Dope pallies (l. to r.) Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Shameik Moore.
In other words, for all its keep-it-comin’ energy Dope is smartly assembled exploitation crap. Okay, not fair — it’s too superficially engaging to be called “crap” but it’s definitely insubstantial — a fleet, Tarantino-like hodgepodge of fantasy bullshit in the vein of a New Line Cinema release from the ’90s (i.e., House Party), and adapted to the general sensibility of 2015. In other words it’s fun as far as it goes but definitely not that great. Everything that happens fits a carefully calculated Hollywood street sensibility and is right the fuck on the nose; nothing is soft or subtle or indirect. Plus it’s too long by 15 or 20 minutes. At the 90-minute mark I was saying to myself, “Wait, wait…this thing should be wrapping up by now but it isn’t…it feels like it’s still building and developing points rather than starting to pay off.”
I’m probably going to be the only one saying this kind of stuff because I strongly suspect that Sundance critics are flat-out terrified of not praising the hot Sundance film of the moment. On top of which any semi-dismissive remarks may be seen as indicative of a teeny-weeny “attitude problem” and nobody wants that shit hanging ’round their neck so the safer option is to just go “holy fuck…a knockout ‘hood comedy!…a revelation! Everyone meet this evening at the bottom of Main Street so we can all celebrate Dope‘s wonderfulness.”
And by the way I hated the way Famuyiwa told Moore to stare like a wide-eyed idiot and take two and half times longer than anyone with an IQ over 75 to come up with a reply or response to any challenging situation. I hate that slowed-down, wide-eyed “whuh-whuh-what?” innocent-kid shit…hate it!