*1/2 (out of four)
When all else fails, make a joke about balls.
That may as well be the tagline for “High School,” a stoner comedy whose misguided sense of its own cleverness begins but doesn't end at its title. At a California high school, valedictorian Henry (Matt Bush) and his old friend/current underachiever Travis (Sean Marquette) team up to feed the entire student body pot brownies during a bake sale. That way everyone will fail the drug tests initiated by uptight Principal Gordon (Michael Chiklis, combing his mustache) and Henry's class rank and future at MIT won't suffer from the joint he smoked yesterday.
At some point everyone fears that one rule-breaking choice could lead to massive consequences. “High School,” however, sucks any fun or funny out of a dizzying worst case scenario. Its sense of humor chuckles repeatedly at a student whose last name is Phuc (pronounced just how you think) and generates scenes like a cop frisking Henry and wondering what that object is, and then saying, “Oh, that's your penis?” As the drug dealer hunting Henry and Travis for stealing from him, Oscar-winner Adrien Brody sports corn rows and owns a frog who croaks “What?” while Colin Hanks' assistant dean throws Cheez-Its at his face after the brownies take effect.
First-time feature director/co-writer John Stalberg Jr. also underwrites Henry's rival (Adhir Kalyan), who constantly appears out of nowhere, and the hottie (Alicia Sixtos) who of course lives next door to Henry and thinks she's out of his league. Without the cathartic debauchery of “The Girl Next Door” or the demented imagination of this year's self-indulgent “Detention,” “High School” becomes exactly what the administrators (who show a fear-mongering video in which weed leads to institutionalization) believe results from the drug: A bummer you regret giving a chance.
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