This is an ambitious coming-of-age dramedy, despite being marketed as more of a "stoner comedy." While there are moments that could make it a stoner comedy, that's actually not the dominant aspect to the movie. It's what makes Dude so ambitious but also confusing. Sometimes it's a movie where four teen girls living in LA sit around swimming pools getting high or being hung over while saying things like, "Ugh. F--k. I want froyo," and accidentally getting the family dog baked on weed mint strips before going out to clubs to party and hook up with boys. At other times, it moves into intense melodrama on themes like sexual assault, the untimely death of a peer, and parents who ghosted on their families. While there are plenty of coming-of-age movies that have managed to strike the right balance between raunchy comedy and the difficult issues common to the late teen years, there's a sense with Dude of trying too hard to be all these things.
Perhaps it wants to be Dazed and Confused meets Girls meets My So-Called Life meets The Breakfast Club meets any number of 1980s raunchy teen sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll comedies. At its best, Dude is a welcome addition to the above, despite its flaws. The acting, in spite of it being entirely 20-something beautiful actors playing teenagers (for all the trials these characters face, acne clearly isn't one of them), is excellent. And Jack McBrayer, in a cameo as a hippie teacher, steals the scene in what might be the funniest part of the movie. There's a lot of good to this, and the ambition deserves and earns respect, but the extremes between tragedy and comedy, coupled with a too-convenient ending, stand in the way of a good movie being great.