Dope is a comedy crime-drama about a self-described music geek, Malcolm, trying to survive in a tough neighborhood in Inglewood, CA. After a chance encounter he finds himself in possession of a large quantity of drugs and guns. Malcolm, a straightedge boy, is suddenly thrust head first into an underground culture he has spent his life avoiding.
While this coming of age picture takes a look at the unique struggles of African American youth, Dope uses its comedic style to help all cultures relate to the protagonists. Malcolm and his friends are outsiders in their own culture. They are a minority of a minority, they are nerds where the only acceptable expression of self is to embrace drugs and gangs. Malcolm desperately hopes to improve his life through being a good student and all around good person. He quickly learns that life is not that simple.
Malcolm has lived a safe life. He has steered clear of bad influences and the first time he steps out and takes a risk he ends up in an adventure that will shake him to the core. Through a series of mishaps and unlikely events he grows from a boy who only wants to attend Harvard, into a man who wants to challenge the way he is perceived.
The comedic tone of the film will at first take you off guard. Yet, it also makes the content of the story more palatable. If this were a serious film, it perhaps would have gained more notice and yet lost what makes Dope unique. We expect comedy to be simple, we're not looking to be challenged by a funny film. However, if the struggles of black youth are only represented in overdramatic tones we become part of a bigger problem. If we only want black culture to cause us to think in certain ways we are limiting an entire people group who have very important stories to tell.
The charm of Dope is its light handling of tough subject matter. These kids are in serious danger. People get hurt, and some nearly die. It is funny to watch kids come up with creative new ways to sell drugs and get one over on their mentors. Yet the reality of the situation is not lost in the laughs. As soon as you start to relax Dope brings you back to reality.
This film is one of the most enjoyable movies I have seen in a long time . I greatly enjoyed the humor, while also being challenged by the deeper messages the film presents. Malcolm’s struggle with bullies, college, gangs, girls, and disillusionment are universal and still unique. Overall, Dope is a film to which we can all relate, I highly recommend this film currently streaming on Netflix.