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"Dope" movie earning raves as it opens nationwide

Stacy M. Brown | 6/29/2015, 10 a.m.
Rick Famuyiwa never doubted that he had a special movie project on his hands with the new film, “Dope.”
"Dope" Film Director, Rick Famuyiwa (Photo: Eric Charbonneau)

Rick Famuyiwa never doubted that he had a special movie project on his hands with the new film, “Dope.”

Armed with the knowledge of how Hollywood can sometimes divert from a filmmaker’s plot, Famuyiwa made sure to protect his precious story line.

Diddy, Pharrell Williams and Forest Whitaker at the premier of the indie film “Dope” at the LA Film Festival recently.

(Photo: Eric Charbonneau)

Diddy, Pharrell Williams and Forest Whitaker at the premier of the indie film “Dope” at the LA Film Festival recently.

“It was important for my vision of the film to stay in tact,” he said in a statement through his publicist. “[My vision] is something I don’t think could have been accomplished in a major studio.”

The Hollywood-centric publication Variety, called the film a buoyant teen caper comedy that’s one of this year’s brighter Sundance commercial prospects.

The film contains so much playful energy and wit to Famuyiwa’s indie-est project since his 1999 movie, “The Wood” that few viewers will mind, Variety reviewers said.

A soundtrack featuring new songs by Pharrell Williams is an added plus for a film that should play well to wide audiences.

The Hollywood Reporter, another industry trade publication, was among the many to publish good reviews for the film. The publication’s review noted that the movie’s overall energy, which is reinforced by dynamic camera and cutting from Lee Haugen, and performances that are spunky enough to almost always temporarily suspend disbelief when required.

Onscreen in practically every frame, Shameik Moore in his first lead role is clearly the star of the show, shouldering that burden with enviable ease. His character, Malcolm, a high school senior and the son of a single mother portrayed by Kimberly Elise, is an energetic young man full of contradictions who’s believable as a straight-A student who can outsmart gangsters as well as someone who’s intimidated by class bullies or any girl with any interest in him.

The film centers on Malcolm and his friends Jib (portrayed by Tony Revolori) and Diggy (played by Kiersey Clemons) who bond over 1990s hip-hop culture, their studies and playing music in their own punk band.

A chance encounter with a drug dealer named Dom lands Malcolm and his friends at the dealer’s nightclub birthday party. When the scene turns violent, they flee with the Ecstasy that Dom secretly hid in Malcolm’s backpack. A wild adventure ensues as the youths try to evade armed thugs who want the stash.

“Dope is an indie film with a compelling story,” Famuyiwa said. “The story line truly connects the audience with its characters.”

The film, which is currently playing at several Baltimore theaters, is written and directed by Famuyiwa and produced and executive produced by Forest Whitaker, Pharrell Williams and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs. The cast also includes A$AP Rocky, Tyga, Chanel Iman, Zoe Kravitz and Rick Fox.

“It’s more than just a black film,” Famuyiwa said. “It is a film for everyone.”