How High (2001)

(Netflix Streaming, September 2016) Every subculture has its persecution complex and hence its insurrection fantasy through which they’ll show the mainstream how wrong they were to be marginalized. How High is “just” another stoner comedy, but it’s more interesting if you see it as a blueprint for conquering the mainstream. Never mind the setup in which two potheads gain quasi-magical intelligence after smoking the remnants of their dead friend—it’s what happens once they get accepted to Harvard that’s interesting. Because, once they’re there, they proceed to take over the esteemed institution, offend the bourgeoisie, humiliate their bullies, tear down statues, rewrite history (“Benjamin Franklin was a huge stoner!”) and seduce white women (but only as a sideshow to ending up with good black women). It’s quite impressive once you look at it this way … which is roughly the only way to make How High more interesting than just a stoner fantasy. At least Method Man and Redman aren’t bad in the lead roles, with compelling performances carrying through the film. Otherwise, there isn’t much in How High that hasn’t been assembled from other similar films—they’re designed for a specific cult audience, and there are limits to the mass appeal that such a production can have. Otherwise, there isn’t much satisfaction to be found in the disjointed, broad, episodic, intermittently amusing result. As a comedy, How High is pretty much what it tries to be. As a stoner insurrection fantasy, though, it’s provocative in its own way.

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