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Movie Review

Sundance Hit 'Dope' Is Original, But Falls Short Of Great


Dope is getting a lot of enthusiastic reviews, but I'm told it is not winning the Wichita moviegoers, and this is one case where I have to vote with the majority.

It has been much praised for its reality, and I perhaps show stereotyped thinking in wondering whether the streets of Inglewood, Calif., are so spotlessly clean and the clothes of its teenagers so new. Apparently a lot of the realism is a matter of attributing to the black high schoolers the same ambitions we usually attribute to whites-- going to Harvard business school and becoming CEOs. But in this case, their way of financing their dream hardly reeks of the ordinary.

A rather sloppily handled police raid leaves two boys and a girl with a backpack of heroin that they dare not identify themselves with to either the police or the local pushers. So they decide the only thing to do is sell it.

It may be significant that the person they turn to for help in marketing their risky product is a white pusher. And he shows them how to refine the raw material into something yet more profitable-- we see them trying to do this under the guise of a science project in the high school lab, a scene which pretty clearly does not represent anything they actually do. As Dope goes along it accumulates more and more scenes of what is thought about, or that show what might have happened, until by the end I can't tell you how it all turns out, you'll have to do what you can with the clues the movie offers.

Dope does offer a lot of new faces, at least new to me, with little stereotyping and considerable originality. And the audience laughed more than I did, though the vomit-and-urination scene brought gasps.

Dope is interesting and original... but I don't see what the fuss is all about.