A refreshingly funny nod to classic Rap from the 90s in this teen comedy
Dope is a brilliant coming-of-age comedy for the hip hop generation. Three smart high school seniors from Inglewood, California live in a very rough neighborhood. The trio share a deep love for classic Rap music from the 1990s and are unabashed geeks. That sets them apart from everyone else at school. Writer/director Rick Famuyiwa has crafted one of the year’s unexpected gems. It is a wild and funny hip hop adventure through the hood.
I guess you would call Dope a ghetto comedy, but it’s an intelligently crafted ghetto comedy about a group of three nerdy teenagers into classic Hip Hop acts like A Tribe Called Quest and Public Enemy. Pharrell Williams provides original music too. It’s like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for today’s teen audience, if Ferris had been a black geek from the hood caught up in drug dealing. That comparison should give you an idea of the crazy ride these characters take from innocent high school seniors to major drug dealers in the blink of an eye.
Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is the primary geek in Dope. A clean-cut student with aspirations for Harvard, he is into manga and other nerdy interests that set him apart from his peers. Coming from a very tough neighborhood filled with drugs and crime, Malcolm and his friends stick out like sore thumbs. His two friends are Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori), sharing a common love for classic 90s Rap music and fashion.
They find themselves in a crazy adventure when a drug dealer played by rapper A$AP Rocky invites them to his birthday party at a night club. Filled with shady criminals, offbeat weirdos and fast-paced direction, Dope tells a completely funny tale about the three of them being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Only the trio’s own smarts can save them from the life-threatening predicament they end up in with a cache of stolen drugs.
The vibrant comedy bursts with charm and vitality…
The vibrant comedy bursts with charm and vitality…
These teenagers were born years after the Rap music and culture they admire had its golden age, though that scenario works better than expected in the context of Dope. The vibrant comedy bursts with charm and vitality as they tackle their adventures with freewheeling abandon. It is a smart comedy brimming with little touches that add authenticity without feeling scripted. Malcolm isn’t stuck in the past, he is firmly a modern teenager on the edge of technology. Bitcoin plays a major role in the story, the digital currency favored by technocrats and underground businesses. A cute sub-plot about Malcolm’s interest in the drug dealer’s girlfriend takes an unexpected path.
Dope won’t change anyone’s life but Rick Famuyiwa has created a fresh, memorable comedy with compelling characters. Hip Hop heads definitely need to put it on their radar but the comedy speaks to a much broader audience with its coming-of-age themes and implicit ideas on racial identity.
Universal delivers a superb presentation for Dope on Blu-ray. This is a high-quality transfer done to maximum specifications, taken from a pristine Digital Intermediate filmed at gorgeous resolution. Only reference-caliber BDs surpass this type of pure picture quality. The 103-minute main features receives an outstanding AVC video encode on a BD-50, averaging nearly 32 Mbps. The original 2.40:1 aspect ratio has been preserved in stellar clarity.
Dope has fantastic depth and dimensionality, rendered in a pleasing color palette with lovely saturation. A perfect contrast and deep black levels help produce razor-sharp video with impressive fine detail.
Universal has given the film a perfect transfer without filtering or other video processing. The flesh-tones show no obvious color grading tilt, leaving a perfectly neutral image in vivid color. I wish more Blu-rays could approach this quality.
Dope features a multitude of classic Rap tunes from the 1990s, from Black Sheep to A Tribe Called Quest. Pharrell Williams provides new songs for the geeks’ punk band. This is a heavy, aggressive soundtrack at times with rich sound quality. The audio hits hard when it wants, from bigger chase scenes to quieter moments with more subtle immersion. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack has a nice bass presence and accurate dialogue, nicely placed in the middle between the bursts of music.
English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles display in a white font, remaining inside the scope framing at all times.
Universal’s combo pack includes a DVD and a digital code, good for both an UltraViolet copy and iTunes. The lack of special features beyond two featurettes is a disappointment for such a funny, smart movie. First pressings should include an ordinary slipcover.
Dope is Different (03:21 in HD) – A brief featurette covering the major themes of the film, including sound bites from Pharrell Williams and Shameik Moore discussing it.
Dope Music (03:29 in HD) – Executive producer Pharrell Williams discusses the original music created for this film and his aims behind it.
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.