Dope

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Dope Movie Poster Image
Brilliant, mature coming-of-age story explores race, class.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 115 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 11 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Examines/dissects assumptions regarding class and race. Malcolm's story arc explores how difficult it is for impoverished young people to escape poverty and better themselves. But paralleling this is the grim idea that no matter how much someone from poverty does better themselves, the worst will always be assumed.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Malcolm is clever and kind, but he gets mixed up in an impossible situation. He wants to get out of poverty/his dangerous neighborhood and into a good college.

Violence

Gang members bully kids, threats are made at gun point, a shoot-out kills and injures people, a young man waves a gun around and then accidentally shoots himself, and verbal threats make it clear that people will be killed if a young man doesn't do as he's told.

Sex

A young man masturbates in his bedroom while staring at videos of half-naked women dancing or of a photo of a woman he likes. References to sex, virginity, arousal, and various sex acts. A young woman offers herself sexually to the main character, appearing before him topless and asking him if he's a virgin.

Language

Frequent strong language, including many uses of the "N" word (all by African Americans except for one white character who's granted an "exception"); also "f--k," "motherf--ker," "motherf--k," "a--hole," "pussy," "s--t."

Consumerism

Products/logos seen include Adidas, MTV, Beats by Dr. Dre, Maserati, Ancestry.com, Mini Cooper, PATTA, Bang & Olufsen.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent underage drinking and drug use (marijuana, MDMA) at parties, clubs, and in private. One young woman is so drugged that she vomits, urinates in public, and temporarily passes out while driving. Teens and young adults capture and upload videos of themselves and others on "Molly" (or "Lily," as it's called in the film).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dope is a coming-of-age story about a self-professed "geek" from one of the toughest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, if not the country. The high school senior dreams of getting into Harvard but first must overcome dangerous circumstances that threaten all of his plans. Expect lots of strong language ("f--k," "motherf--ker," "s--t," the "N" word), teen hormones, substance use/dealing (alcohol, marijuana, Ecstasy), and sexual situations (masturbation and naked breasts, plus lots of talk about virginity, arousal, and more), as well as moments of violence (a deadly shoot-out, threats with words and guns, bullying) and scenes in which a young lesbian is forced to go to her grandmother's church so the churchgoers can "pray away the gay." But Dope also has thought-provoking themes about class and race in the United States and what it takes for a poor African-American teen to get ahead.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byDan G. June 21, 2015

Terrible Movie for both children AND adults

Where to start? Besides the full frontal nudity, acceptance of masturbation, homosexual acts, casual (irresponsible) sexual intercourse, gruesome violence, und... Continue reading
Adult Written byalyssaw1 July 3, 2015

Missed opportunities (spoilers!)

I was hoping for an edgy comedy examining race and class in America. I did not find it here. There are some moments where I felt that they began talking about... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byirontap June 24, 2015
Teen, 13 years old Written byGOA July 23, 2016

Really great movie to let your child know the dangers of drug dealing

Its a good movie because its all about how if you get into selling drugs of go to a party and try drugs you can end up bad.

What's the story?

DOPE chronicles the life of high-school senior Malcolm (Shameik Moore), a self-professed '90s hip-hop geek from Inglewood, California's, worst neighborhood, "The Bottoms." He gets good grades, hopes to go to Harvard, and hangs out with two like-minded friends -- Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons). Because of Malcolm's crush on a local older beauty (Zoe Kravitz), the trio attends local drug dealer Dom's (A$ap Rocky) birthday party, where a shoot-out prompts the young dealer to leave a considerable amount of MDMA (aka "Molly") in a clueless Malcolm's backpack. Malcolm has no idea about the drugs until the next day at school. Then Dom calls Malcolm with specific instructions about what to do with the package, but things go seriously awry. Dom quickly realizes others are after the drugs, which he must somehow get rid of or sell without getting caught, implicated, or even killed -- all while preparing for the SATs and a Harvard alumni interview.

Is it any good?

Director Rick Famuyiwa's Sundance hit Dope is a coming-of-age comedy that's simultaneously clever, edgy, touching, and thought-provoking. Produced by Forest Whitaker (who also doubles as narrator) and Pharrell Williams (who also provided the original music), Dope is about a group that's largely without a voice in popular culture -- working-class African-American (or other minority) geeks who struggle to fit in and must always be aware of their surroundings. Moore gives a tour-de-force performance as young Malcolm, who desperately wants out of The Bottoms and into the kind of future he believes an Ivy League education can provide.

Equal parts crime caper, coming-of-age tale, and friendship comedy, Dope is brimming with energized performances, a perfectly complementary soundtrack, and lots of powerful social commentary. The philosophizing is never preachy; it's spot-on and occasionally harsh -- where you come from matters, and the color of your skin definitely matters. Malcolm, Jib, and Diggy can't afford to make mistakes, because one wrong turn, one extra pause could cost them everything. Despite its heavy themes, Dope is also hilarious, offering a biting reflection of youth culture's dependence on social media, where drugged out kids (and adults) will share anything and everything. This story comes down to one stereotype-defying boy who's basically a genius but who -- because of where he's from and what he looks like -- could just as easily end up in prison as Harvard Yard. And that's worth unpacking and discussing -- after you've laughed and laughed and laughed some more.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Dope's scenes of violence, sexual experimentation, and substance use. Young characters from both a poverty-stricken neighborhood and a privileged college do similar things. What does that say about youth culture?

  • How does music play a role in Malcolm's life? What about other media? It is realistic the way the teens in the movie used social media to record even unsavory and illicit situations?

  • What does Malcolm mean when he says that he and his best friends are accused of "not being black enough"? Is doing well in school and wanting to go to college a "white" thing? How does the movie ask viewers to think about race and class?

  • How does Malcolm's character play against stereotypes? Why do how he looks and where he's from still have such an enormous impact on his life?

Movie details

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