By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — They’re High School dropouts.  The laughs, that is, which disappear for such long stretches during this stoner comedy that it seems as if the project has been abandoned in midstream.

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The dreadful High School puts the “high” in school and the “low” in grade.

It’s a bro-mantic stoner comedy about two seniors who need to get all their classmates high enough to fail a collective drug test, thus covering their own incriminating, marijuana-marinated tracks.

(1 star out of 4)

The two leads — Matthew Bush as Henry and Sean Marquette as Travis, the former an honor-roll student and the latter not, the former the potential class valedictorian and the latter not, the former skinny and the latter not — who used to be best friends but have since drifted apart and become estranged.

However, on a day when they reunite and reconcile, stoner-in-chief Travis talks the uninitiated and at-first-reluctant Henry to try pot for the first time in this literal buddy comedy.

The next day, the school principal, Dr. Gordon, played by Michael Chiklis, intent on discovering just who in the student body is indulging in drug use so he can weed out the weed wielders, announces schoolwide mandatory drug testing on a day of final exams with expulsion from school as the penalty for anyone who either fails or skips out on the test.

There goes Henry’s scholarship to MIT.

So, nothing left to do but get the entire graduating class high, so the results of the test will have to be discarded.

But their need for everyone in their large class to get baked can mean only one thing:  bake sale!

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To accomplish their desperate goal, Henry and Travis must steal something potent from Travis’ wild-eyed drug dealer, a heavily tattooed fella who goes by the rather unsettling name of Psycho Ed, played by Adrien Brody.

And Colin Hanks as the idiosyncratic assistant dean leads a supporting cast that also includes Yeardley Smith, Mykelti Williamson, Michael Vartan, Andrew Wilson, Curtis Armstrong, and Adhir Kaylan.

Pages have certainly been taken from Superbad, among other youth-oriented flicks, but High School is far more bad than super, going up in smoke as its promising premise is reduced to rubble by the midway point.

The debuting director, John Stalberg Jr., co-wrote the lazy script with Erik Linthorst and Stephen Susco based on a story he co-co-created with Linthorst.

You would think they would speed things along (when skating over thin ice, after all, speed is of the essence), but no, the pace is lethargic.

And because there seems to be no directorial hand on the reins, the actors are left on their own.  Brody, Chiklis, and Hanks are talented performers, but it’s as if they’re in three different movies.

Showing different kinds of people inadvertently stoned is a cheap laugh and should be an easy one.  But even that thrust is botched here.

Running out of steam this early in a feature-length can only be accomplished with a distinct lack of ambition.  And when the laughs stop registering in a movie this shallow, there’s nothing left to fill in the ever-widening gaps.

So we’ll inhale 1 star out of 4.  “What is this,” you might say, “high school?”  Yep, and setting a school record for how quickly it goes to pot.

More Bill Wine Movie Reviews

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