The stoner comedy High School announces it understands its target audience with its opening scene, a sensual slo-mo shot of lips prepping a joint, then lighting and enjoying it. The lips, it’s soon revealed, belong to a character named Charlyne Phuc, pronounced like it looks, a spelling-bee champion played by Chuck’s Julia Ling. Given “logorrhea” as a word, she gets a case of the giggles. (Because it sounds like, well, never mind.) So to recap: weed porn, funny name, bathroom humor. That pretty much just leaves a boob shot, a traffic accident, a bunch of squares accidentally getting high, and a funny animal for the checklist, right?
Sadly, High School takes its time getting through the rest, and does so as unsurprisingly as possible, apart from a grabby premise. After Ling shames her school with her drug use, its principal (a bewigged, mustachioed Michael Chiklis, doing what seems like a cracked Donald Pleasence impression) declares the entire school must undergo a mandatory drug test. This order goes out the day after probable valedictorian Matt Bush (Justin Long looks, Michael Cera inflections) tries pot for the first time after mending fences with Sean Marquette, a childhood friend turned pot enthusiast. To save Bush from shame, they hit on the plan of replacing bake-sale brownies with pot brownies, getting the entire school high, and throwing off the test results. (Whoa, the title works on multiple levels!)
“At times like this, you have to think like a stoner,” Marquette reasons. The film follows that logic, but not far enough, offering a weak strain of stoner antics that’s usually content just to show students and faculty (whose ranks include Colin Hanks, Yeardley Smith, Curtis Armstrong, and Michael Vartan) wandering the halls looking dead-eyed, and only occasionally ups the ambition by having, say, a dude ride a skateboard off a balcony. (Can audiences who’ve seen the Harold & Kumar films and watched Method Man and Redman smoke John Quincy Adams’ bones in How High settle for so little?) Adrien Brody (Best Actor, 2003) delivers a colorful turn as a braided-and-tatted drug kingpin who thinks his pet toad talks to him (funny animal, check!), but High School is otherwise a tedious sludge through the same gray corridors where the same old gags wait around every turn. Marijuana may or may not kill ambition, but unless director and co-writer John Stalberg wanted just to meet the minimum requirements for the genre and nothing more, something must have squashed his aspirations.