Dope

June 19, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons
Directed by: Rick Famuyiwa (“Our Family Wedding”)
Written by: Rick Famuyiwa (“Our Family Wedding”)

Rather than set his movie in the culture of hip-hop during the 90s, writer and director Rick Famuyiwa did a smart thing and made his characters fascinated with 90’s culture. Something about seeing a teenager in a modern setting with a hi-top fade and terrible fluorescent clothing is amusing and also serves as a nice bit of nostalgia for those who feel like they grew up in the wrong era. In “Dope,” Famuyiwa creates a love-letter to the 90’s era, wrapped up in a story of teenagers in over their heads.

Growing up in a tough neighborhood in Los Angeles, self-described nerd Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is a good student trying to get into Harvard. But when he gets caught up in trying to chase a girl in his social life, him and his friends find themselves way over their head when Malcolm’s backpack is used as a hiding spot for some dangerous items. Confused, scared, and with a lot on his plate, Malcolm must do things he never dreamed of to get himself out of the jam.

As a coming-of-age, slice of culture film about nerdy teenagers in a rough neighborhood, the early moments of “Dope” flourish. Hilarious lines about liking white stuff like “Donald Glover,” and especially the secondary character performance of actor Tony Revolori, really hit. These characters are a lot of fun to be around. Shortly after, however, “Dope” gets a little too ambitious and complex and as a result loses a lot of its focus.

It’s simply a classic case of overstuffing. Our main characters are given far too many character quirks and side plots that never seem to have much of a payoff. Elements such as them being in a band, for example, has no real reason to exist. Beyond that, the film’s narrative takes it down different paths that stretch it way too thin.

As the teens find themselves in a deeper hole, the jump that the audience is supposed to make is a little extreme as the film shifts into its drug dealing story. These scenes feel like almost an entirely different movie with different characters. Even within these moments, segments take weird detours, bringing in oddly placed social media aspects that don’t make a lot of sense. Mix these complexities with an ending that feels rushed and tied together with a pretty bow and you have a film that, despite its good qualities, feels haphazardly thrown together and confused.

As a side note, “Dope” spends a pretty significant amount of time devoted to Bitcoin, which ends up being a rather huge part of the plot. Unfortunately, it misses on the seemingly gargantuan task of explaining just what the hell Bitcoin actually is. Let’s face it. Does anyone really know?

“Dope” is a film with a serious identity crisis. At times, it tries to be way too many things at once, and unfortunately, does none of them exceedingly well. But give credit where credit is due. It’s occasionally quite funny, and frequently entertaining, if not a bit messy and about half an hour too long. There is, admittedly, a lot of charisma between its cast members though despite these things, “Dope” just barely misses the mark.

Our Family Wedding

March 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: America Ferrera, Forest Whitaker, Carlos Mencia
Directed by: Rick Famuyiwa (“Brown Sugar”)
Written by: Wayne Conley (“King’s Ransom”), Malcolm Spellman (debut), Rick Famuyiwa (“Brown Sugar”)

Movies featuring racially diverse casts and themes are hard to come by these days (unless you’re rubbing elbows with the overrated brand name known as Tyler Perry). But if future projects aimed at underrepresented minorities are anything like the grating “Our Family Wedding,” studios should keep them tucked away at least until George Lopez’s dubious “Speedy Gonzalez” idea comes to fruition.

Not only are the distasteful stereotypes what make “Wedding” a chore to sit through, director and co-writer Rick Famuyiwa (“Brown Sugar”) just doesn’t have the comedic chops to deliver entertaining material for an entire feature film. While a goat hopped up on Viagra is the unfunny low point of the movie, “Wedding” sinks close to that level before and after the farm animal starts dry-humping Forest Whitaker in the bathroom.

Using the same structure as 2005’s “Guess Who” (a less than stellar remake of the Oscar winning 1967 film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”), the film follows two families as they prepare for a big wedding celebration for their son and daughter.

Lucia Ramirez (America Ferrera) and Marcus Boyd (Lance Gross) may be in love, but that doesn’t mean their dads have to like each other. The animosity between father of the bride Miguel (Carlos Mencia) and father of the groom Marcus (Whitaker) begins when Miguel, the owner of an auto repair shop, impounds Marcus’s sports car and exchanges verbal jabs with his daughter’s future father-in-law even before he knows who he is.

The set up is a tired one. Most of the jokes play the race card without remorse and each one is less amusing than the last. When Lucia and Marcus break the news to their families about their interracial relationship, no one bothers to tell Lucia’s grandmother (Lupe Ontiveros) who falls over when she sees a black man walk into her kitchen. The racial profiling continues as Miguel calls Marcus “bro’” and Marcus retorts with “hombre.” The families bicker and clash about wedding traditions, culture, and religion while Lucia and Marcus stand idly by having claimed a nonsensical mantra to help them get through the weeks before the big day: “Our marriage, their wedding.”

Directed gracelessly by Famuyiwa, “Our Family Wedding” is an unfortunate mess of a movie that skips all the tender moments and authentic family ordeals for dull slapstick comedy and ham-fisted put-downs. If you’re looking for something as endearing as “Father of the Bride,” you’ve come to the wrong ceremony.