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High School Synopsis
The day after soon-to-be valedictorian Henry Burke (Matt Bush) takes a hit of the chronic for the first time, his school principal (Michael Chiklis) institutes a zero tolerance drug policy and administers a mandatory drug test for all students. Henry has two options: fail and lose his college scholarship, or team up with his stoner friend Breaux (Sean Marquette) to beat the system. They steal a high powered ganja from law student-turned-drug-dealer Psycho Ed (Adrien Brody) and spike the school’s bake sale brownies, getting the whole school—faculty included—completely stoned out of their minds. But with the student body getting higher and higher with every brownie, and a pissed-off Psycho Ed on their tails for stealing his stash, they must find a way to keep their half-baked plan from going up in smoke.
Matt Bush Gets Baked with Flickdirect5/30/2012 10:06 AM EDT Matt Bush, star of the new comedy 'High School' in theaters June 1st, sat down with FlickDirect to discuss the film and its influences. He elaborates on his role and how the film fits in the great pantheon of 'teen stoner films'. Without further ado we present Matt Bush: FlickDirect: I was expecting more of a drug-movie, a Marijuana-Humor movie; and it is...More>>
When all I knew about High School was that it took place in High School and was about a kid who gets the whole school high with marijuana brownies, I was pretty sure I knew the story; and I was pretty sure it included a Cheech Cameo somewhere. I was wrong on both counts.
High School is a movie about drugs, drug users, and students. The movie does, in fact, mock the hysterical anti-drug PSA's of decades ago. It does also have the characters get "the whole school stoned" with drugged brownies. There IS a sighting of the number 420 (probably more than one, but I wasn't keeping count). But for all that, it is really much more like Ferris Bueler's Day Off or Risky Business than How High.
High School centers around Matt Bush and Sean Marquette playing former friends who wind up back together after a chance detention. Matt plays Henry Burke, an MIT-bound Valedictorian. Sean Marquette plays Travis Breaux, a perpetually stoned loser whose big plan is to buy real estate in Nicaragua because it is a cheap place to possibly live. When they reminisce about their old days of friendship, Henry decides to take a risk and tries marijuana for the first time. It isn't a good experience; he falls out of a tree and has a black eye for the whole rest of the movie; but things get dramatically worse when the principal, played in a stunning move by Michael Chicklis, decides to have the whole school drug tested.
Henry is going to lose his scholarship and Travis, feeling somewhat responsible, creates a plan to steal some super-high grade drugs from "Psycho Ed" (a deranged, drug-dealer genius played by Adrien Brody covered with tattoos) and spike the school's bake sale that was happening the next day. Clearly all kinds of things could go wrong (notably: ripping off someone named "Psycho Ed"), and most of them do.
Where Matt Bush and Sean Marquette hold the movie together on the strength of their chemistry, the secondary story line of the tyrannical principal Gordon is shocking because we get to see Michael Chiklis play a totally pathetic (but in a position of authority) bad-guy. He is channeling Principal Rooney from Ferris Bueler's Day Off who is not a bad-ass. He has (bad) hair. He is an angry, disagreeable little man. If I hadn't known it was Chiklis, I would never have believed it was him; and the character is a hilariously compelling villain. Chiklis uses his native charisma inverted to make the character loathsome. As I kept thinking of his iconic Vince Macky from The Shield, I couldn't take my eyes off him.
The movie isn't totally serious, of course; but it isn't a one-note joke either. While it isn't harsh on doing drugs (or, not nearly as harsh as the PSA's it makes fun of) it also isn't a "loser does drugs: becomes cool, gets girls" narrative either. It's a capable comedy with enough dramatic elements and strong performances to carry it through its few excesses. In short, you wind up caring about Matt and Sean's characters, so you are invested in whether they can navigate the totally absurd situation they find themselves in.
With an R-rating, for a film called High School, it has an uphill battle -- the likely target audience can't see it by themselves. Even worse, if it looks like a stoner movie (which, to be fair as listed by Wikipedia, it may not get the credit it deserves as a broader comedy. That is a shame – it is a very, very funny movie. It doesn't rely on the viewer being stoned or into drugs to get the jokes. I think it holds its own with the genre of high school comedies that feature smart protagonists, as well as plays off the fears of high school graduation being the all-important gateway to success (which is what it seems like when you're in it).
High School is 2012's Ferris Bueler's Day Off. Whether it will take a place in history next to the classic high school movies, I would need a crystal ball to say; but it has all the necessary elements. One of them just happens to include marijuana.