As far as breakouts at this year’s Sundance, there were few more prevalent conversation-starters than Dope, a breezy, L.A.-based coming-of-age story about Malcolm (Shameik Moore), a ’90s obsessed high-schooler with lofty dreams of Harvard scraping his way through Inglewood. Orbiting Malcolm is a classically eccentric band of misfits, from his garage rock-band compatriots to the studious girl next door to a slippery drug dealer. As often befalls even those kids with the best of intentions and highest-minded aspirations, Malcolm ends up caught between the wrong crowds and in possession of a copious amount of stolen drugs. Antics ensue.
This first teaser is less a trailer than a psychedelic gateway into Malcolm’s retro-obsessed mind, but it’s a uniquely realized teaser. Through real-time scrolling gifs, 8-bit detours, Moore’s high-top fade, and of course, the immortal sounds of “The Humpty Dance,” we get a brief window into the world of Dope. Watch the trailer below and bask in the glory of the ’90s seen through the prism of the aughts:
The trail of the tape
Director: Rick Famuyiwa
Cast: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Blake Anderson, Zoe Kravitz
Release date: June 19, 2015
The entire trailer in one line of dialogue: “Allow me to reintroduce myself.”
The entire trailer in one screengrab:
Though Dope was treated with the gilded awe that usually awaits debuts, it’s actually Rick Famuyiwa’s fourth shot at directing—his previous work includes Brown Sugar, The Wood, and Our Family Wedding. Though this teaser and its self-conscious occupation with race might elicit knee-jerk comparisons with Spike Lee’s films, the major comparison point throughout Dope’s reviews was Quentin Tarantino, thanks to Famuyiwa’s penchant for the fizzy and intertextual.
Our own Noel Murray and Mike D’Angelo were both quite positive about the film, though both balked at the overabundance of ideas. Mike wrote, “Dope is so current in many respects that it risks looking dated down the road, but Famuyiwa craftily deflects the issue by making his characters obsessed with the ’90s, to the point where Malcolm even sports a high-top fade and dresses like he’s on In Living Color.”
That being said, not everyone was as enamored with Dope. Others were put off by the film’s potentially glib handling of racial identity. Grantland’s Wesley Morris was one of the most vocal, writing a fairly sizable essay purporting that the rearview ’90s fetishizing and “gallery of stereotypes” make the movie feel exploitative. This teaser lacks context, so it would be hard to make any kind of judgement call yet, but the film sees release within the next month, so we can all weigh in soon.