How High stars rappers Method Man and Redman as Silas and Jamal, two black potheads in the Projects. Silas is a would-be chemist whose apartment is a makeshift greenhouse with — what else? — every type of pot plant available. Jamal is a slacker who has spent 6 years in a 2-year community college. When Silas’ buddy Ivory (Chuck Davis) accidentally kills himself, Silas does what all best buds do: he grounds Ivory’s ashes into pot and smokes it! This results in Silas (and Jamal, who Silas meets on the way to taking a college entrance test) being able to see Ivory’s ghost, who has the inside track on passing the test (the movie’s version of the SAT). You see, where Ivory is (in the land of the dead), he knows the guy who created the test and can help his bud with the answers! As a result, Silas and Jamal scores perfectly on the test, which means they can go to any college of their choice. And their choice is Harvard College!
How High is geared for an obvious audience — the pothead and would-be (or wants-to-be) pothead crowd. Over 90% of its jokes are based around growing pot, smoking pot, stealing pot, or using dead people for smoking pot. Silas and Jamal, being the Projects-bred street toughs that they are, of course turns the Harvard campus upside down with their shenanigans and in-your-face attitude. By movie’s end everyone has warmed up to the boys, who become big men on campus despite not trying very hard. (Mind you, these two would never have made it into Harvard, or any college with an IQ, in the real world the way they are dressed, acts, and talks in the movie — perfect score or not.)
If you couldn’t guess how the boys would act once they reach Harvard, or how the other students and faculty would react to their baggy clothes and thuggish attitudes, and how everything would turn out hunky-dory because the boys were “true to themselves”, then you’re a hopeless cause. Movies like How High are like one of those connect-the-dots picture drawings. It has the same limited movement, the same prescribed arc, and if you didn’t think it would end up where it’s supposed to, then you haven’t been paying attention.
The film’s comedy comes in the form of Jamal and Silas’ status as Fishes out of Water on the Harvard campus, but mostly from their pothead high jinks. There are some highlights, a lot of predictable “clashes,” and blacks Jamal and Silas of course ridicules everyone and everything who isn’t black — and everyone else who is black, but doesn’t “act” black. (Re: Blacks rule, and you all suck.) The duo are quite crude, vulgar, and violent, many times for no reason except they have to “prove” that they’re true blacks — as if “being black” meant you should act like a jacka– and insult everyone and everything who isn’t like you. (Aren’t whites that do that accused of being a racist? Hmm.)
These situations and reactions by the duo are meant to be funny, and some of them are, but others just come across as mean spirited and make our heroes look like the uneducated hoodlums that they dress as. If you like watching Jamal and Silas physically and verbally abuse their poor white roommate every chance they get, then you’ll be slightly amused. If you think Jamal and Silas are jerks for constantly picking on and torturing their sap of a white roommate, then you might wonder why these supposedly “cool” dudes are such s.o.bs.
Some of the situations revolving around pot are quite funny. The death of Ivory is a riot, but the constant clashes between Jamal and Silas and Dean Cain (Obba Babatunde), the black faculty member who doesn’t act black, are so repetitive that one wonders why there were so many to begin with. I guess the filmmakers wanted to make sure we knew Jamal and Silas are the “good” blacks because they “act” black, and that Cain is the “bad” black because he doesn’t “act” black. If that was the case, I got the hint after the third time, and didn’t need to see the same scene a dozen more.
How High is a pothead film. If you like that kind of film, you’ll like this one. If you don’t, and prefer your comedy to be just a little bit more sophisticated, or at the least a little bit more creative, then you’ll avoid this mindless and silly junk of a film.
Jesse Dylan (director) / Dustin Abraham (screenplay)
CAST: Method Man …. Silas P. Silas
Redman …. Jamal King
Obba Babatund’ …. Dean Cain
Mike Epps …. Baby Powder
Anna Maria Horsford …. Mrs. King