High School

“High School” starts with a viable premise that could evolve into a satisfying stoner comedy, then veers off into something more mundane: a generic high school comedy.

Which is a shame, because that initial scenario is gold. The day after M.I.T.-bound senior and all-around good kid Henry Burke (Matt Bush) smokes pot for the first time in his life, a school-wide drug test is announced, with expulsion promised to anyone who fails. Panicked, Henry turns to burnout acquaintance Travis Breaux (Sean Marquette), who says, “Times like this, you need to think like a stoner.” The solution? Secretly get the whole student body stoned, skewing the test results and forcing a redo.

The thought of a campus populated entirely by baked students should have you drooling with comic anticipation, and for a while “High School” – oh, “high” school, I get it now – sets out to exploit the potential of dazed teens who have the munchies and don’t realize why. An anti-marijuana video shown to the kids in detention is wonderfully hysterical in its straight-faced assertions about the evils of weed, smartly skewering drug PSAs of the past.

But before long, the film falls into a familiar rut. Henry and Travis must evade the twitchy dealer (played by Adrien Brody) from whom they stole all that pot, while also navigating around the exaggeratedly crusty and drug-hating principal, Dr. Gordon (Michael Chiklis), who of course is giving the school board a tour of the campus today. (Of all days…!) Henry has a rival for the valedictorian spot, a sour preppy named Sebastian (Adhir Kalyan), as well as a foxy dream girl (Alicia Sixtos) whom he doesn’t have the courage to talk to. Perpetual loser Travis starts to wonder if he can make something of himself after all. In other words, it becomes an ordinary teen comedy, light on the transgressive laughs you were hoping for and heavy on formula. Sure, being stoned when you see it would probably make it funnier. But that’s true of most things.

C (1 hr., 39 min.; R, abundant harsh profanity, some shower nudity, abundant sexual vulgarity and drug use.)