How High

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How High

There are dopey lowbrow comedies, and then there are transcendently dopey lowbrow comedies, the kind in which barnyard animals get intoxicated, authority figures are thrown in pools, and slobs invariably win their eternal struggle with the ascot-wearing forces of snobdom. This year has seen too many of the first sort: dim, joyless exercises in Farrelly worship like Bubble Boy, Tomcats, Not Another Teen Movie, and Say It Isn't So. Thankfully, How High, the starring debut of the hip-hop and comedy team Method Man and Redman, falls squarely into the latter category. A delightfully silly college stoner comedy, How High casts America's Most Blunted as a pair of underachieving marijuana enthusiasts whose lives take a drastic turn for the better when they begin smoking pot that renders them capable of acing tests. Courted by top colleges, the pair enrolls in Harvard, where they run afoul of the school's stuffy dean (Obba Babatundé) due to their madcap antics, constant weed-smoking, and disrespect for authority. While Babatundé plots to have them expelled, Redman and Method Man set about spreading mischief, anarchy, and cannabis everywhere they go, in the process teaching their painfully uncool roommates and the school's faculty how to party. The past two decades are littered with rappers' doomed attempts to transfer their music-world personas to the big screen, but How High succeeds where Tougher Than Leather, Disorderlies, and The Wash failed. Handily beating the rapsploitation jinx, Redman and Method Man make it into cinema with their charisma, wit, and chemistry intact, as they bounce off each other with the graceful, effortless ease of a veteran comedy team. Their droll appearance in the otherwise unremarkable concert film Backstage captured the pair's onscreen chemistry, but only hinted at the sharp comic timing, magnetism, and deft physical-comedy skills each displays here. Dustin Abraham and Brad Kaaya's surprisingly clever script hits all the expected notes, but along with a plethora of jokes involving loose women, bodily functions, and Tommy Chong's muse, How High manages quite a few sharp bits, particularly with its unexpected turns from Spalding Gray, Benjamin Franklin's ghost, and the corpse of John Quincy Adams. The film's leads certainly have the potential to become the hip-hop Cheech and Chong. They may or may not maintain How High's high spirits and infectious fun in subsequent cinematic adventures, but they're off to a terrific start.