Alex's Sundance 2010 Review: John Stalberg's HIGH School
by Alex Billington
January 26, 2010
Ah yes, the always brilliant, always hilarious stoner comedy. So if you actually took that sentence seriously, then you probably won't like this film. Personally I'm a fan of good stoner comedies and appreciate their dumbed-down but always entertaining humor, even if everyone involves a person (or people) getting stoned and being idiots. That's what happens in John Stalberg's High School once again, but they up the ante by getting an entire high school stoned this time. And exactly as expected, it was hilarious. In fact, it's probably one of my all-time favorite stoner comedies (alongside of Half Baked and Pineapple Express among others).
High School tells the story of Henry Burke (Matt Bush), the soon-to-be valedictorian in his last days of high school. Henry reconnects with an old friend and ends up smoking his first joint, but the stuck-up principal (Michael Chiklis) decides to drug test every student and expel those who have abused any substance. Henry freaks out because he'll lose his valedictorian status and MIT scholarship and eventually hatches a plan to get the entire high school stoned. But where do you find that much marijuana? Well, you steal it from the local crazy drug dealer Psycho Ed (played by Adrien Brody). That's the setup and it snowballs from there.
While you shouldn't expect anything brilliant (it is a stoner comedy after all), everything in High School was pretty much pitch perfect comedy. The soundtrack was awesome, the characters are all developed well, and the story takes some unexpected twists and turns. It's not a spoiler to say that he does indeed get the entire school stoned, because the most entertaining part of this was watching the madness over that entire day (as every student, teacher, and everyone else in the area ends up high as a kite). And the plot isn't a simple "get everyone stoned, get off scot-free" scheme, there's some interesting (and amusing) problems that arise.
If you were looking forward to this based on the concept alone, then I'm certain you'll enjoy it. I don't know if you'll love it as much as I did, but I guarantee you'll have a good time, just because the execution is as good as (if not better) than the concept. All of the performances are great, from the tattooed, drug dealin' Adrien Brody to the wig wearin', mustache sportin' Michael Chiklis. And there's even appearances by Colin Hanks, Andrew Wilson, and Yeardley Smith (who voices Lisa Simpson). Overall I had a blast watching High School and will be looking forward to eventually adding it to my stoner comedy collection whenever I can.
Alex's Sundance Rating: 8.5 out of 10