You could say Mac & Devin Go to High School is like a sitcom based around pot, but that would be an insult to sitcoms in general. You could say High School is a stretch for Snoop Dog, but that would stretching into naivety.
Let’s take this 75-minute film (of which there are 60-minutes of actual content) and dissect it structurally. No, that’s not technical, just purposeful. It opens on an animated joint, switches to Snoop Dog getting high, and then someone else gets high, there’s shots of marijuana, someone gets high, and the closing comes on an animated joint making a case for legalization.
Small note: Asking for legalization of a substance via an animated cartoon character with bloodshot eyes -in front of an American flag decked out in pot leaves instead of stars- probably isn’t the way to get your message across.
In that 60-minutes of “plot” and droning comedic acts that struggle to find their edge, two musical performances are sandwiched in, only to kill time and undoubtedly promote whatever it is Snoop finished in the recording studio. Devin (Wiz Khalifa) is a high-end student with a girlfriend who wants him to succeed, but throws it all away to get plastered in Mac’s (Snoop Dog) apartment. The positive side of the message? Um, that is in fact the positive message.
You can’t make this stuff up, Devin’s speech as valedictorian dedicated entirely to smoking pot and getting drunk right in front of a Princeton scholarship adviser. He gets in, the Princeton rep apparently fixated on the choreographed dancers on the background performing a routine based around smoking weed or getting laid.
It’s impossible to deconstruct a movie like this, utterly devoid of basic technical merit, acceptable editing techniques, and writing with any glimmer of logic. Anyone wandering into the minefield of idiocy that is High School probably isn’t looking for any of that anyway. They’re looking for some mindless pot escapism purporting to be a feature film, which tells them they should be high to watch in the first place (really). You get what you pay for.
It wouldn’t be surprising to learn most of High School’s budget was drained by the camera used to shoot it, and whatever dollar amount that was, it wasn’t worth it. Plagued by aliasing and pixelation on anything resembling a fine line, the image is in a constant state of break-up. It’s rather remarkable how rundown this fresh digital source can look.
Blips of noise can prove slightly bothersome, although usually draped over the background. Heavy saturation invites the encode to bring a little compression along, working together with the noise to break-up the clarity.
Exposure problems blow out entire sections of the frame while giving flesh tones one of the strangest, pastiest qualities you’ll likely ever see. Someone must have made a desperate attempt in post to fix whatever was broken at the source, but couldn’t find the right mix to make it appear natural. The end result is an overblown, washed out image in which people appear almost like aliens or diseased in certain shots.
Few scenes try anything outrageous visually, the “high” sequences shot with specific lenses for a variety of effects, but limited digital manipulation. One of the songs is given a vintage feel with a noisy grain structure and simulated print damage. It’s a weak excuse for style on a disc with little visual panache.
Anchor Bay shoves a TrueHD mix onto the disc that doesn’t have anything to do. Mellowed music doesn’t hit the sub or space itself from the stereos, and there’s no genuine action to speak of. A walk down a hallway after a joint session will clone the dialogue to simulate the trip, spreading through the surrounds with a meager echo effect.
Despite being a barren, cheap production, dialogue doesn’t sound hazy. It’s natural and tight, showing some signs of production value. Unfortunately, that’s about it. The school seems to host about a dozen kids so the halls are limited in their scope, and it’s impossible to wrangle any surround effects with smoke.
Director Dylan Brown joins stars Snoop Dog and Whiz Khalifa in a commentary, which would mean yes, you have to watch this a second time to get the most from the disc.
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