Dope offers an endearing coming of age story with a social message. The movie tackles the classic struggle between identity and societal expectations, but with something more substantial.
The snappy plot focuses on the everyday struggles of a kid who’s too white for this neighborhood yet too ghetto everywhere else. Malcolm has to contend with the high school hierarchy as a geek, defy racial conformity as a high school student into white shit, and fight stereotypes as an aspiring black Harvard man.
Shameik Moore is endearing as the plucky Malcolm. He has nice group chemistry with Tony Revolori as Jib and Kiersey Clemons as Diggy. Together, they convey a real sense of camaraderie that you can see from misfits who have found each other. As the story progresses there’s also an array of offbeat characters that help sustain the energy of the movie.
The females though, don’t have much to do here as they become token of the men in their lives – the one-of-the-boys friend, the girlfriend, the seductress, and the mom.
Dope wants to be a fun teen comedy and social commentary at the same time. But the execution is clumsy.
Malcolm’s narrative is filled with convenient coincidences to complicate his life. In the process, he becomes the person he is working hard to avoid, and the stereotype that the movie is trying to challenge – a drug dealer. The movie ends with a preachy motivational speech and a forced conclusion.
Dope is a thought-provoking piece about the conflict between societal expectations and race-related prejudices. It also invokes a discussion about self-identity and racial conformity. It was able to handle all these issues through a relatable coming of age story that doubles as an entertaining caper filled with amusing pop culture references.
Unfortunately, it’s held back by the trappings of hip hop.
Dope is a fun teen comedy thanks to its snappy plot, witty dialogue, and earnest performances, but it's limited by its own aesthetic.