Pot's presence in pop culture has grown in the past few years; while "Cheech and Chong" faded out in the 80's, films like "Half Baked", "Dude, Where's My Car?" and the documentary "Grass" have cultivated the plant's popularity. "How High" is the latest stoner comedy; all new films of the genre must be compared with "Half Baked" and this one comes up a bit short. It's not without a few laughs and a decent concept, but it's not consistently entertaining.
The film stars rappers Method Man and Redman as Silas and Jamal, two stoners from New Jersey who have different blends of marijuana for different illnesses and other problems. When one of their friends lights himself on fire after falling asleep with a joint, they use his ashes to plant their latest strain of pot. When they smoke their old friend, his ghost reappears and, smart as he is, tells the two all the answers they need to get perfect scores on their SATs. They're offered a scholarship to any school they want - they pick Harvard.
There's nothing in the way of plot and even less in the way of lessons - it's all about weed jokes, women and dialogue that strings together more curse words than one can count. Those past their early 30's will probably run screaming any room where this is playing; those under that age who can forget about expecting something halfway ambitious will settle in for a few silly laughs.
Given the fact that all the characters are stereotypes and the dialogue is just okay, it's up to the two rap stars to liven things up and they actually do - the two have solid comedic timing and, while it seemed like they were just being themselves here instead of acting, they're able to get laughs. Spalding Gray (yes, that Spalding Gray) also is amusing as a African-American history professor.
Overall, "How High" gets occasional good laughs, but too much of it goes by without any solid jokes. The film is not only the debut of the two rappers/actors, but is actually also the debut of director Jesse Dylan, who happens to be the son of Bob Dylan.
VIDEO: Universal presents "How High" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Cinematographer Francis Kenny ("Kingdom Come")'s work makes for a more professional-looking picture. Universal's presentation also really shines in this effort. The picture looks consistently sharp and well-defined, with no instances of even slight softness that I noticed. Shadow detail is also strong.
The presentation's only noticable flaws are a couple of tiny instances of pixelation and edge enhancement, neither of which cause much in the way of distraction. The print used was crystal clear throughout, with no specks, marks, grain or other flaws. Colors remained vivid, bright and well-saturated throughout, with no instances of smearing or other problems. Certainly no serious concerns at all were seen with this excellent offering from Universal.
SOUND: "How High" is presented by Universal in DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1. Surprisingly, the film doesn't entirely suffer from the lack of ambition that most comedy soundtracks have - while certainly not agressive, a few scenes have some decent sound effects placed in the surrounds. The film's rap soundtrack could have benefitted from a bit more reinforcement from the rear speakers, but the music does sound bassy and rich coming from the fronts. Dialogue sounded clear and crisp throughout, as well. Both the Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks were pretty similar, but the DTS track edged forward a bit with slightly deeper bass and a minimally crisper sound.
MENUS: Non-animated menus, with the music playing in the background.
Commentary: This is a commentary from stars Method Man and Redman, who both sound as if they're a bit high during the commentary recording. There's definitely no discussion of the technical aspects of the filmmaking process here; the two simply provide an often-hilarious and often foul-mouthed discussion of what's currently happening in the film. Some slow points and silence, but overall, fans of the two should appreciate this track.
Deleted Scenes: 22 minutes of deleted scenes are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen and w/o any optional commentary. Some of this material is actually quite funny, so I'd guess the only reason it was deleted was for pacing/running time.
Outtakes: 2 1/2 minutes of moderately funny goofs.
Hide the Stash Game: One of the odder Easter Eggs I've ever seen, when you find this clip, you're presented with a few seconds of the rappers talking. That's it. There's also another unrelated hidden deleted scene in one of the features menus.
Trailers: The "Universal Showcase" area offers trailers for Eminem's "8 Mile" and "Undercover Brother". The "Now Showing" area has trailers for "Half Baked", "American Pie 1 & 2" and "Fast Times and Ridgemont High". Last, but not least, there's the trailer for "How High".
Also: Production notes; cast/crew bios; music videos for "Part II" from Method Man and Redman and Jonell and Method Man "Round and Round" remix and 21-minute "making of" documentary.
Final Thoughts "How High"'s first half has some funny moments, but it seemed to run out of ideas towards the end. Universal's DVD is a fine offering, with excellent audio/video and some fun supplements. Fans of the movie will want to pick up the DVD; others who are interested will want to rent first.