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HOW HIGH

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Method Man, Redman, Obba Babatunde, Mike Epps, Lark Voorhies, Fred Willard, Jeffrey Jones
Director:  Jesse Dylan
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Universal
Features:  See Review
Length:  94 Minutes
Release Date:  May 21, 2002

“We want all y’all ho’s to come!”

“Did you just call us ho’s?”

“Um…yeah…but I meant it in a good way.”

“Oh…okay…”

Film *

Hip-hop stars Method Man and Redman teaming up to make a Cheech and Chong styled comedy for the new millennium?  It sounded interesting the first time I heard it.

Then I remembered how much I hate Cheech and Chong.

Messrs. Man and Man don’t seem to fare much better with similar material in How High, a comedy that would be more appropriately titled How Low Can You Go.  I even hesitate to use the word comedy, but I will, just in case some of our readers find humor in female debasement, voluminous vomiting, exploding pigeons, and digging up corpses and smoking their body parts.

Method Man plays Silas, a super-stoner who’s gained an interesting benefit from his years of experimenting with cannabis…he’s become quite knowledgeable of plants and their medicinal possibilities.  He meets up with Jamal (Redman), who goes to college, but hasn’t exactly been impressive with his academic career.  “Six years at a two year community college is NOT what I had in mind,” his mama tells him. 

Both share a love of weed, and soon, the two make a wacky discovery…by smoking the bud of a plant that was fed the ashes of Silas’ dead friend Ivory (trust me), they find that Ivory’s spirit appears to them, and will tell them anything.  Like, answers to hard test questions?  No problem…and with their perfect scores on the THCs (again, trust me), our intrepid anti-heroes can get into any school they want.  Harvard?  Why not? 

But this movie is no Legally Blonde.  It’s no Animal House, either…heck, it even makes Road Trip seem subtle and intelligent by comparison.  Silas and Jamal’s presence at Harvard is just an excuse to poke fun at higher learning, having goals, and bettering one’s self.  Their antagonist, played by Obba Babatunde, is Dean Cain (get it?), a well-learned and respected man of prestige at the institution.  Does the fact that he’s African American as well give our two stoner buds a good role model?  Fat chance…he’s just a constant target for their crude barbs.

The Dean wants them out of Harvard, but there’s not much he can do, not as long as the boys have their Ivory plant to smoke and can keep getting A’s without trying.  I think a crucial plot point occurs when their beloved weed gets stolen and forces them to try and make it on their own, but I can’t say I really watched How High in search of plot points.

The gags are frequent, but few of them work…in addition to the pleasantries mentioned earlier, there are also a couple of pimps who like to slap people with baby powder, Jeffrey Jones as the Vice President (and an “I didn’t inhale” joke), a gross close-up of Cheetos being eaten with a mouth open, lots of profanity, lots of underachievement, and of course, lots of drug use.

I’m no prude, mind you, but funny is funny, and funny is what this movie is not.  I don’t even feel like clamoring from my soap box about this being the most disgraceful portrayal of African Americans I’ve seen in a long time, and how this movie couldn’t be more fraught with negative stereotypes than had it been made by the producers of Amos n’ Andy…but How High sinks so low, it doesn’t even merit such discussion.

Method Man and Redman seem comfortable in front of the cameras, and might make for a decent comedy team, if they were given something a little more worthwhile.  If all they’re interested in is being the next Cheech and Chong, they’ve succeeded.  How High is at least as bad as any film that duo ever made, and maybe worse.

Video ***

There are very few complaints with this anamorphic widescreen transfer from Universal.  Generally, coloring is very good and well defined, and images are generally sharp and detailed.  A few lower lit scenes, like the inevitable party at the end, suffer from a little bit of softness and over-saturation, but these aren’t many…merely worth mentioning.  Brighter lit scenes fare much better.  A good effort overall.

Audio ***1/2

The soundtrack fares much better, with choice of Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1 tracks.  Rear channel usage is subtle and discreet, giving a little extra depth to both louder and quieter scenes with reverb and extra effects.  The .1 channel kicks in strongly for the music, which includes a mix of hip-hop and hard rock.  Dialogue is well presented on the front stage, where panning effects are smooth and well balanced. 

Features ***1/2

Though not labeled a Collector’s Edition disc from Universal, this DVD still boasts a good selection of features.  The commentary track by Method Man and Redman is frequently funny, though not all that informative…it’s fairly apparent that both actors are still in their stoner characters, if you know what I mean.  There is a 20 minute featurette containing cast and crew interviews (including producer Danny DeVito!), three deleted scenes, three minutes of outtakes, a pair of music videos, a trailer, talent files, production notes, coming attractions from Universal, and an amusing, if ultimately pointless, “Find the Stash” game, which could also be called “Many Worthless Easter Eggs”.

Summary:

How High or not How High?  That’s no question at all…this is a supremely weak comedy that rests solely on drug humor, gross-out factor and crude stereotypes for laughs.  Frankly, it didn’t get any from me.