Hip-hoppers go to Harvard in dopey ‘How High’

How High

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
December 21, 2001

2 stars

If you like stoner comedies and Cheech & Chong, “How High” will feel like home.

The film features hip-hop stars Method Man and Redman as a pair of pot-smoking fiends who find refuge at Harvard University. The catch is they have to maintain a 2.0 average to remain there, and without studying, they can do this only with the aid of a friendly ghost who appears when they smoke joints rolled with his ashes.

Gross, huh? There’s plenty more of that to come. They also dig up the body of a former president and grind parts of him in a blender.

Then there’s the projectile vomit scene that’s so fast and furious it makes Linda Blair’s pea soup scene in “The Exorcist” pale by comparison. In other words, teenage boys will love this movie. Too bad most of them won’t be old enough to be admitted into this R-rated flick.

That said, Method Man and Redman lend a certain charm to this film. Unlike numerous other musicians-turned-actors, the pair exudes humor. They’re also not intimidated by the camera. Too bad the plot can’t keep up with them.

The film starts off promisingly, with Silas (Method Man) running an urban herbal shop out of his apartment. His homemade concoctions can cure impotence, baldness and get you high at the same time. His pal Ivory (Chuck Davis) encourages him to go to college, work in a real lab and earn big bucks.

Meanwhile, when Ivory’s date blows him off for, well, being ugly, he falls asleep with a lit joint, which sets his hair weave on fire, which causes him to jump out of a window, when he gets hit by a bus and dies.

All for laughs. And the thing is, it is kind of funny.

Ivory’s cremated ashes are planted with some special seeds. It grows into a potent plant that produces an amazing high. And when the plant is smoked, the ghost of Ivory appears.         As he points out, “They can only see me if they smoke me.”

Ivory helps Silas and his newfound pal Jamal (Redman)–who spent six years trying to finish community college–ace their college entrance exams. When their perfect scores register, Harvard recruits them.

Directed by Jesse Dylan (son of Bob and brother of Jakob), “How High” moves quickly and has the high energy feel of an MTV music video–not surprising, given Dylan’s past work directing videos. Where the film falters is in the script by Dustin Lee Abraham. Halfway through the movie, Abraham begins throwing in unnecessary subplots about pimps and romance. The film slides downhill from there.

This movie is all about stereotypes, but it’s done in such a good-natured way you find yourself chuckling at the butt-munch humor. The African-American potheads are the heroes, so to speak, but their biggest obstacle isn’t a stuffy white undergrad. Rather, it’s an African-American dean who wants them out ASAP. Their underage Chinese roommate–touted to be Harvard’s youngest freshman ever–knows martial arts and the words to all the phat rap songs, but he also “brags” about his two-inch penis.

Stupid? Yes.

Funny? At times.

Worth full-price admission? Only if you’re truly high.

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