Monday, June 22, 2015

Dope Review: Ambitious Dramedy High On Inconsistency

One of the more the intriguing film genre out there is that of the dramedy. As the name suggest, a dramedy takes the genres of comedy and drama and mixes the two film types. The result of this genre that has led to a number of compelling films. So what happens when you take the fundamentals of a dramedy and throw into the world of "The Bottoms. You get the movie known as Dope. Directed by Rick Famuyiwa, Dope takes the ideas of lower classed communities as well as selling drugs and tries to show the humor, not to mention the seriousness,of the matter. The end result has been Dope receiving a warm reception when it debut at the Sundance Film Festival as the film has been well praised by numerous critics. Yet does this Film Adventurer agree with the film's fans? Is Dope, in fact,a must see dramedy?

The story of Dope follows Malcolm (Shamiek Moore):a nerd who deals with a number of problems such as the hardship of living in a low income area. After a run in with a gangster named Dom (A$AP Rocky) Malcolm and his friends Diggy and Jib (Kiresy Clemons and Tony Revdori) are invited to Dom's birthday party. However when the cops arrives, Malcolm and his friends flee the scene. The next day Malcolm discovers that Dom planted drugs in the high schooler's book bag. After a failed attempt to get rid of the drugs, Malcolm decides to sell the product at his high school. Fortunately for Malcolm, Diggy and Jib, no one would ever suspect three nerds selling drugs.

 The plot of Dope is certainly ambitious. The film takes concepts like drugs and black's stance in education and tries to be both humerus with these serious ideas; not to mention engaging. However I felt that Dope's story failed in its execution. What hindered the story was in fact the comedy and drama, but I will get to that matter later. Aside from that, the plot points were handled poorly. It takes at least an hour for Malcolm and company to set up shop in their school; and in the process the plot shifts tones. Not only did this make it difficult to get a feel for the overall story, but movie's pacing divulges any moments that can be regarded as serious. While the filmmakers no doubt had true intention with the social themes in Dope, I felt that the plot's overall message was in fact a bad one as it painted the main character in a bad light.

I will not deny that Dope's cast had good performances. Unfortunately, this was a cast of characters who were plague with underwhelming direction and standards cliches. Take the character of Malcolm for example. I think there were good ideas in Malcolm and he could have been a strong, yet different,individual. However, due to the story's situation, Malcolm comes off as a typical comedic protagonist who learns nothing  by the end of the film. Diggy and Jib were not any better. The two characters offered nothing to overall film as their only direction was only to be Malcolm's sidekicks. Zoe Kravitz played Malcom's love interest Nakia, and her presence was all but nonexistent. On one hand the movie was saved a cliche as  Malcolm's motivations did not center on getting Nakia.Yet, on the other hand, the two's scenes together left no impression as Malcolm and Nakia had no chemistry. Forest Whitaker provided some points to this factor as the narrator;but the problem was that Whitaker would come and go which made his role very inconsistent.

The comedy to Dope was the average type we see today. By that I mean that most of the humor was crude. Admittedly  my issue with this is a matter of preference as I cannot stand crude comedy. Most of it relies heavily on sick humor and curse words, and this film was no exception to those rules. This leads me to the matter of the film being a dramedy. A good dramedy should have a proper balance of humor and seriousness. The comedy in a dramedy should be used in a way to connect to the audience to both the story and the characters; so when the dramatic moments happen, it will have a strong impact on the viewers. In case of Dope, there was no balance. In fact the movie was 80%  comedy and 20% drama. As I said the humor was crude, which meant that the comedy was over the top; and because of this I could not take the drama seriously.

On the creative side of things, Dope did have some intriguing technical elements. Throughout the film, the movie used creative directions- such as having text appear on the screen or replaying a sequence in a different way. While it was certainly creative, this factor was inconsistent. Instead having this direction throughout the film, these moments would come up every now and again. Needless to say, it was hard to comprehend the imagination of Dope.

Maybe its just me but I do not see an appeal of Dope. The movie certainly had good ideas, and it could have presented  strong social messages in a unique way. Unfortunately the movie relied too much on the typical factors like character cliches and crude comedy; making any point to this dramedy null and void. In the end Dope was a film that was neither funny nor serious, and in my book: that is not how you should handle a movie of this unique genre.

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