Stoner comedy hasn't really traveled very far since Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong went "Up in Smoke" in 1978.
Although lots of recent movies have paid homage to the masters (see "Dude, Where's My Car?"), the latest twists seem only to have moved the action from the 'burbs to the ghetto (see "Friday"). While you should not expect anything new from the latest stoner comedy "How High" -- the directorial debut by Jesse Dylan, the lesser known son of Bob -- you might notice a subtle shift in ambition. These smokers are looking up.
The smokers are rappers Method Man and Redman, playing low-rent bud-buddies Silas and Jamal, respectively, who have little respect for their dead-end lives. But their lot in life begins looking up when some very special weed seems to raise their I.Q.s. Getting smart doesn't mean much without credentials, so the well-stoked pair applies to get into Harvard -- and succeeds. The big laughs (for those of us not stoned already) derive from the various reactions to the collision of the two cultures.
Chief among those are Dean Cain's various confrontations with his new tokin' tokens. Bow-tied Cain (Obba Babatund?) makes for a perfect Oreo, and thus the perfect butt for the blunt brothers' jokes. Playing Dean Cain's flip side is the ever-droll Fred Willard who, as Chancellor Huntley, finds no behavior ridiculous if he thinks it'll make him more hip to the hip-hop.
Hector Elizondo, as a coach, and Spalding Gray, as an eccentric professor, more or less emphasize the point. The various complications of keeping a steady supply of smart weed add little except for the machinations of an amusingly goofy character named I Need Money (Al Shearer).
As for Redman and Method Man, neither should give up his day job in music. They're not nearly as funny as they think they are to each other. You can credit them for the music, which is satisfactory but not stellar. Unlike well-rounded talents like Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and the late Tupac Shakur, these guys struggle to come up with two dimensions, let alone three.
Rush out to see this only if you believe in leaving no turn unstoned. Otherwise, save it for video night on the sofa, with munchies.