“I’m surprised this hasn’t happened sooner…”
No truer words could represent the existence of John Stalberg Jr.’s High School, a film that sat on a shelf following a blistering run at Sundance in 2010, only to be released theatrically, in a very limited fashion, in June of this year. It’s the simple tale of two former friends whose paths have diverged in their later teen years. Henry Burke (Matt Bush) is the soon-to-be Valedictorian of his class, with a promising future awaiting him at M.I.T. Travis Breaux (Sean Marquette) is a burnout who spends more time wiping sharpie marker penises off his face than he does hitting the books. After a pre-school accident lands them together in detention, Breaux convinces Henry that his path to relaxation must go through the forrest of the sticky green, the cannabis sativa. And so they smoke marijuanna, not knowing that tomorrow will bring about a school-wide drug test at the hands of their overly theatrical dean, Leslie Gordon (Michael Chiklis).
It’s here that the story gets interesting, and soon after the film finds itself introducing a mad, tattoo-covered dealer named Psycho Ed, as played by Adrien Brody. It’s here that High School becomes something quite special, indeed.
As I mentioned in my Sundance review, there’s no shortage of stoner comedies in the world of cinema. But a stoner comedy with ambition and brilliant performances is a rare thing. That’s exactly what we get from Stalberg’s feature debut, “a stoner comedy worthy of being mentioned in the same paragraph as both Dazed and Confused and the great John Hughes. It’s funny, unpredictable and filled with performances that are as bankable as they big name stars who’ve disappeared into them. It is a well-rounded affair, with detail-oriented set design and a score that brings a fever-pitched intensity, appropriately signaling the many epic confrontations between good and evil, stoner and square.”
This week, you can finally pick this one up on home video. DVD and Blu-ray releases are available (9.4), coming as a welcomed gift to those who live in cities that were out of reach of the limited theatrical run. And while the Blu-ray from Anchor Bay isn’t burning down the house with extras, there’s plenty of fun to be had. A very entertaining commentary track with John Stalberg, Jr. is one benefit. He’s an intelligent, witty guy with a great deal of control over his vision for this story, as I found out when we spoke at Sundance:
In addition to the commentary track, there are also some deleted scenes, a number of which include additional Adrien Brody madness as Psycho Ed, who exists in a constant state of hyper-paranoia meets manic genius. He’s one of the more special characters you’ll have experienced in recent years. Magnetic, insane and fun to watch. As an example, we’ve scored this exclusive deleted scene that gives you a intimate introduction to Psycho Ed.