“Dope” (2015)

Grade (A-)

A fun adventure wrapped in an inspirational comedy that delivers plenty of laughs.


A group of geeks living in a tough neighborhood, who are always finding it hard to fit in, get a random invitation to a gang members birthday party and find their lives in turmoil as they struggle to keep focus of their dreams, rather than getting swept up in the harsh world they live in.

My Take

I didn’t really know what to expect from this one, it was not given a major release and the cast was not the most recognizable but the trailer showed some promise. Much to my delight this turned out to be a fun movie that was loaded with 90’s hip-hop references, strong character performances from a younger cast, and a story-line that was built off of moral tones without ever losing its lighthearted feel. The entire film felt fresh and unique in the structure of the story, the creation of the characters and the theme.

The film centers around three students who are far from the most popular in their class and throughout they are shown dealing with the struggles of growing up in a tough neighborhood. The story takes place in Inglewood, California and it was well depicted in this story-line with great locations used for the backdrops of many scenes. The influence of 90’s hip-hop (fashion & music) portrayed in this one was also very enjoyable and in my opinion this has probably the best soundtrack of the year.

It was entertaining to sit back and watch these kids express their love of the 90’s and it was subtle, but I could see a slight maturity in them, reminiscent of a person who could look back on a decade and appreciate what it offered, something most high-school kids would not do. It was a nice added element to help convey the fact these were intelligent kids.

This was a character driven film and with the strong performances all around, it was a recipe for entertainment. Shameik Moore in the lead was excellent. He pulled off this role with perfection, and while he was a kid dealing with being picked on and tormented from people in the neighborhood, it never came across like the story wanted you to feel sorry for him. He had a slight acceptance of how things were and never once let it fracture his psyche. He stayed focused on his dreams of being accepted to Harvard and this goal a constant motivation for his actions throughout the story.

There were some issues I had with the messages in this script. It was filled with a handful of moral themes and I did like how they were placed into the film. They never came across as forced and they all fit neatly in the script never breaking the pace. There were a couple of things that did have me thinking the messages were at times contradictory, but at the same time you have to deal with the situations life brings you and from that mindset, the moral themes in this film that didn’t land, never hindered the enjoyment.

This was a great film and it was due to the unique blend of styles the filmmakers used to tell the story. There were hilarious moments throughout and I found myself laughing much more than I would have assumed. The performances from the rest of the cast were also great and it created a story filled with characters you can vest your interest in. The script boasted much more substance than I thought it would, and it entertains from start-to-finish. The musical influence on this film was also a huge added bonus and if you are a fan of the 90’s you will enjoy this story.

The genre is familiar but the style of film created in this one gives it a breath of fresh air as the typical cliche moments and stereotypes are swept to the side to make room for some fun story-telling. It manages to keep the tone light while doing a relatively solid job of delivered the intended message it wanted. In the end I would highly recommend “Dope” to anyone looking for a creative comedy that will entertain with substance and not one-liners.

– Starring –

Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Chanel Iman, Zoë Kravitz, Rakim Mayers, Blake Anderson, Kimberly Elise, Rick Fox, Roger Guenveur Smith

– Directed By –

Rick Famuyiwa

Time: 103 min

MPAA Rating: R (For language, drug content, sexuality/nudity, and some violence-all involving teens)