|Written by Mel Odom|
|Tuesday, 21 May 2002|
"How High" is purely a guilty pleasure. There’s no excusing the movie, and no amount of justification for watching the DVD for socially redeeming features is ever going to take. The story is thin, but the laughs are full belly busters. Sure, maybe this would never happen in a million years, but if two blunt-smoking guys from the ‘hood ever got into Harvard, this has got to be how it would be.
Trading in the songwriting roles they have had for a number of movie soundtracks, Method Man and Redman star as Silas P. Silas and Jamal King. Chapter 1 busts out the jams with a thumping song about weed smoking set to the opening riffs of Dusty Springfield’s "Son of a Preacher Man" that sets the tone for the movie’s soundtrack and sets off the subwoofer.
Silas runs his own homegrown pharmacy. People come banging on his door in the middle of the night to get his product in a rapid ensemble. Then Ivory, one of Silas’ best friends, shows up needing something to set the mood with a girl he met on the Internet. Ivory leans on Silas, telling him he’s got more going on than just being a supplier in the neighborhood. He also tells Silas that if he died tomorrow, he’s got Silas’ back.
The introduction to Jamal at home is a laugh fest, combining real family dynamics with the one-step-beyond reality presentation of the rest of the family. Anyone who has grown up in a vocal family will cringe and die laughing at the same time.
After the protagonists are put into play and the viewer understands both of them need something new and different in their lives, the story returns to Ivory. His Internet date shows up and is definitely not thrilled with him. When she leaves after a brief but spirited conversation, the surround sound system kicks in again, putting the slamming door through the left main speaker, followed by the sound of the tires burning rubber out on the street through the left main speaker as well.
In Chapter 2, Ivory tries to smoke away his depression. He watches a reefer-inspired take on "Field of Dreams" and gets into the blaze. Unfortunately, he passes out, sets his new weave on fire and goes up in flames. Although the viewer will know he or she is not supposed to laugh, the scene is hilarious, and made even more so when flame-wreathed Ivory takes a header out of the nearby window and smacks into the street below.
By smoking weed laced with their friend's ashes, our two surviving heroes find that they have given their IQs a surprising boost. They wind up enrolled at Harvard, where they contrast with their fellow students, to say nothing of the faculty.
Summoned to the dean’s office in Chapter 6, Jamal and Silas are given a definite warning to succeed academically or perish. While they’re listening, Jamal and Silas snarf Cheetos and end up dropping a few on the dean’s 18th century hand-woven tapestry. Dean Cain breaks out the dustbuster and goes berserk, then finishes his warning.
Hector Elizondo puts in an appearance as the rowing coach, winning a place in the viewer’s heart with the grace and charm this actor always exhibits. In Chapter 7, volunteer safety patrolman Gerald Picklestein’s bike is stolen by I Need $, Jamal’s couch guest in the dorm room. The sound system kicks in again when the bike is radically destroyed, lending a thumping subwoofer beat to the clatter and crash streaming from the main and center speakers.
From this point on, with all the set-ups in place, Jamal and Silas wreak havoc on Harvard. The subwoofers kick in again in Chapter 9 when Jamal and Silas party with a couple of smart girls. Later, when Jamal meets the girl of his dreams, the daughter of the Vice-President of the United States, the music number that kicks in during the fantasy introduction rocks the house, kicking the sound system into high gear again.
Silas turns up the budding romance with Lauren. This leads to the theft of Bart’s great-grandfather’s statue, and the act bonds the roommates. Chapter 11’s raid on the dean’s office, with an attack of exploding pigeons, lights up the subwoofer again, as well as threading through the surround sound system.
Chapter 12 introduces a pimp by the name of Baby Powder who helps carry the last third of the movie. In Chapter 14, while working on his truth serum recipe, Silas triggers a vomiting reaction in a test subject that comes across with graphic intensity as it splashes through the left speaker in a seemingly unending torrent. The laughs continue as the story fills out the thin plot requirements, and the pacing kicks up to a frantic drive, mixing all the familiar players in cameo situations that pay off again and again.
In a truly inspired bit of madness and desperation, Jamal and Silas do some grave-robbing. As they cut the corpse’s arm off, the crunching bones come through the surround sound system so clearly a lot of viewers will get covered with goose bumps.
The DVD comes packed with an arsenal of extras. The outtakes are hilarious, and the deleted scenes show some inspired twists. Check out Jamal’s kangaroo mascot piece, as well as the fantasy sequence played on his head during the scene after the theft of the statue. However, the deleted scenes also show the changes that the script underwent as the editors tried to rein in the madness and keep the wide-ranging humor somewhat on track. The commentary by Redman and Method Man on the movie is sidesplitting at times, and revelatory about what it must have been like on the set of the movie.
"How High" is a great, fast-paced comedy film for an evening of relaxed entertainment. For some viewers, Method Man and Redman will recall Cheech & Chong or even the antics of Abbott and Costello. Another good weed-smoking comedy film in this same vein is Kevin Smith’s "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back." Collectors of Method Man and Redman music will probably want to add this DVD to their home collections. People who like ribald humor will definitely want to schedule "How High" in for a popcorn and stay-at-home night.