High School

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
High School Movie Poster Image
Laid-back comedy centers on heavy teen drug use.
  • R
  • 2012
  • 97 minutes

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Kids say

age 16+
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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

High School's "lesson" is that teens can get away with anything if they learn to "loosen up" -- which apparently entails smoking pot and breaking all kinds of rules. In the movie's only positive vein, childhood friends who have drifted apart become close again.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The "good guys" in this movie sell and smoke pot, and the "bad guys" are uptight teetotalers.


Many threats, but no actual violence. Even in a scary encounter with a drug dealer, no one is actually touched. Sexual harassment between a high school principal and his secretary is quickly thwarted.


Two high school girls are seen fully naked, both from the front and from behind. A character attempts to seduce an older woman and fails. Almost constant sexual language and innuendo, of all different types.


Nearly constant swearing includes countless uses of "f--k" and "s--t," as well as "p---y," "c--t," "c--k," "a--hole," "ass," "balls," "penis," "bitch," "hell," and "goddamn," as well as "Jesus f--ing Christ."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The behavior in High School isn't meant to be taken seriously, but teen characters regularly experiment with drugs. There's almost constant marijuana smoking, and an entire school's worth of teens unknowingly eats pot brownies.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that High School is a drug comedy about teen pot smokers who try to get their entire school stoned in order to thwart a mandatory drug test. There are no positive messages or role models here, and both language and sexual innuendo are extremely strong throughout. There's also some full-frontal female nudity. A scary drug dealer often threatens violence but never delivers. Several teens smoke pot regularly, and most of the characters in the movie are stoned at some point. The movie is aimed at teens, and it has an alluring subversive quality, but parents should be ready to put it in perspective and discuss real-life consequences.

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What's the story?

Henry Burke (Matt Bush) is a top high school student who's on track to become valedictorian and head to MIT. That is, until his childhood best friend, Travis Breaux (Sean Marquette), encourages him to try smoking pot for the first time. The next day, the upright school principal (Michael Chiklis) announces mandatory drug testing, with automatic expulsion for guilty parties. Travis cooks up a plan to save the distraught Henry; they'll make pot brownies and sell them at the school bake sale so that everyone will fail the drug test together. Their first step is to steal the required ingredients from a demented drug dealer (Adrien Brody), but that's only the beginning of a long, harrowing, and hazy day.

Is it any good?

Director John Stalberg makes his feature debut with this low-key but amiable comedy, which borrows from many other movies (Animal House, Superbad, Pineapple Express) but still has its own spirit. Though it's not necessarily laugh-out-loud funny, it runs a bit long, and it grows a little lethargic in its final third, HIGH SCHOOL is still mildly amusing. One of its best and longest-running jokes has the confused characters asking each other "what?" again and again.

Oddly, though High School features the typical lame adult characters, Chiklis steals scenes as the principal, while Brody, as the psychotic drug dealer, steals many others. Their combined bizarre antics give the rather ordinary teens something to react to. The movie seems to condone drug use as a way to loosen up and see life for what it really is; the good guys don't really pay a price for their deeds. It will be up to viewers to decide whether the likeable teens are actually good characters.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's messages about drugs and drug use. Do you think the movie is an accurate depiction of social attitudes about marijuana? Why or why not? Does it address any of the consequences of drug use? As a comedy, is it expected to?

  • Are there any stereotypes in this movie among the high schoolers? What about the adults?

  • Who do you think this movie is intended to appeal to? Does it succeed?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love stories about teens

Themes & Topics

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