Why do most weed comedies feel like they were made by people who’ve never been high? In High School—get it?—mathlete Henry (Matt Bush) and stoner Breaux (Sean Marquette) dose their class and faculty with mega-marijuana. Turns out that Henry’s first toke has, as usual, brought doom: While our lead’s insides are still coated in THC, the crusty principal (Michael Chiklis, with an orange combover and glasses that make him look like a Stephen Root character) whimsically announces a school-wide drug test. The MIT-bound valedictorian figures the only way to save his future is by polluting the test itself. And thus, everyone, from the chess nerd to the squeaky-voiced teacher played by Yeardley Smith, turns into cackling, loopy freaks.
Verisimilitude aside, this isn’t a terrible premise, and could even be a promising one with the right absurdist gag writers. But weed-wise, High School’s yuks mostly involve swearing old ladies, people waxing about Jerry Garcia and other jokes some people assume are automatically funny, including the very idea of people being stoned. Granted, this does mean Colin Hanks loosens up for a change, but that’s a novelty—like watching Oscar-winning actor Adrien Brody as an aggressively tattooed dealer who talks like Christian Bale’s Batman—that wears off faster than a taste from a one-hitter.
It’s instructional to remember what makes the better stoner movies, of which High School is not one, work. Cheech and Chong movies run on their stars’ laidback banter, while The Big Lebowski and the Anna Faris showcase Smiley Face wisely place severely impaired leads in harrowing situations, mining laughs from their hapless navigations. In High School, Henry is mostly lucid and going through some stock Joseph Campbell bullshit in which he learns that to be a nerd is to waste one’s life, improbably scores the hot cheerleader and winds up delivering a speech about how Hamlet was a pussy. Filmmaker John Stalberg takes a cue from Phil Joanou’s Three O’Clock High and directs the shit out of his picture to distract viewers from a script that, if not written under the influence, simulates the laziness that results from too many hits.