Malcolm (Shameik Moore) struggles with acceptance in the hood in “Dope” (Photo Credit: Open Road Films).
“Dope” is “The Wood” 2.o.
It is the urban equivalent of “American Pie,” mixed with a little “ATL,” and the satire of “Dear White People.”
More importantly, it is right on time. “Dope” speaks to a demographic that is often overlooked in the hood.
“Dope” speaks to the non-stereotypical African-American teen that does not fit into anyone’s generalization of what an African-American teen should be.
Although they are around crime, drugs, womanizing and incarceration, they want to go against the grain.
They want to succeed, receive a quality education, and provide for their families.
But no matter how hard they try to escape the dangers of their surroundings, sometimes those dangers find them even when they are trying so hard to avoid it.
Malcolm (Shameik Moore) stands out like a sore thumb in his Inglewood neighborhood.
He is not in a gang.
He does not like modern rap music.
He jams 1990s hip-hop and sports 1990s fashion all the way down to his flattop haircut.
He doesn’t drive a low-rider, preferring a bicycle or skateboard.
He even fronts a rock band called Awreeoh, which sounds so much like Oreo.
He does “White folk stuff” like get good grades in school.
And he actually wants to attend Harvard University after graduating from high school.
Malcolm and his friends are bullied at school, bullied in the neighborhood and everywhere else imaginable.
After a chance encounter with the neighborhood D-boy Dom (Rakim Mayers better known as rapper A$AP Rocky), Malcolm is invited to an exclusive birthday party.
Malcolm and his friends are finally gaining acceptance in the hood when the party is raided and Dom sneaks drugs and a gun into Malcolm’s backpack.
Dom is arrested and he leaves it up to Malcolm to avoid any snitches and sell the dope while he is incarcerated.
Unfortunately, the timing could not be worse for Malcolm as he has to juggle street life with his academic life, having scored an interview with prominent Harvard alum that could persuade his alma mater to admit him.
“Dope” is incredibly hilarious, clever and very heavy like weight (or drugs).
Unlike many other “Black” comedies, filmmaker Rick Famuyiwa (“The Wood”) once again proves that comedies starring African-Americans do not have to resort to slapstick comedy to provide LOL moments.
The character Stacey (De’Aundre Bonds) from “The Wood” makes a return as a security guard at the local Inglewood high school. He is still proud of his street cred from “The Wood” too.
Ricky Harris makes an appearance as the character Tannehill James and reminds America that while brothers like gourmet coffee, they prefer pound cake with it because brothers do not eat scones.
And Jib (Tony Revolori) is offensive at first because he does not appear to be African-American and he constantly uses the N-word. However, Jib clears up any controversy by stating that he found out that he was 14 percent African from Ancestry.com so he can use that word.
Most importantly, “Dope” deals with a certain segment of the population from the hood that is often ignored in Hollywood.
Sure, the hood is dangerous at times.
Sure, there are gangs and violence.
Sure, there is drug dealing.
But there are also many youngsters like Malcolm who want to be the anti-stereotype, but sometimes their environment swallows them whole.
Many African-American kids who have fallen victim to the hood are not hardened criminals and thugs, but good kids who made one mistake or got caught at the wrong place at the wrong time.
This film does a marvelous job of painting that picture.
Nevertheless, “Dope” might offend because of its excessive use of the N-word, especially from non-African-Americans.
Regardless, the movie will be an instant classic and the litmus test for coming-of-age films for African-American youth.
There is a slippery slope for kids trying to stay good in the hood.
The question is will Malcolm slide out of trouble or directly into more trouble and the negative stereotypes of African-American males?