Like a lot of recent comedies, “HIGH School” would like to be a Judd Apatow movie after it graduates. But this stoner fantasy lacks the confidence to put the stoner at its center or the inventiveness to give its familiar characters lifelike quirks.
The mechanical plot has over-achiever Henry (Matt Bush) and pothead Breaux (Sean Marquette) scheming to get their whole school stoned to avoid Henry’s expulsion for smoking pot the day before he is crowned valedictorian.
One obstacle is the headmaster (Michael Chiklis, playing against type in a wispy wig and blueblood accent), an anachronistic martinet on an anti-drug crusade. Another is vengeful pot dealer Psycho Ed (Adrien Brody, in the movie’s best performance). Braided of beard and dipped in tattoo ink, Ed is all greasy menace and fetid self-absorption.
The movie’s plot ticks along efficiently, but its lewd jokes are neutered by age. Attempts to enter the 2000s — like a tasteless reference to Abu Ghraib — fall flat. The few laughs come mostly from bit players: middle-age teachers and elderly school board members spouting druggy profanities or lurid fantasies.