NNWIJ: High Road (2012)

Director: Matt Walsh

Notable Cast: James Pumphrey, Abby Elliot, Dylan O’Brien, Rob Riggle, Joe Lo Truglio, Ed Helms, Rich Fulcher, Lizzy Caplan

Rating: R

Review: A stoner comedy short on the stoner?  Yes, Matt Walsh’s pot comedy isn’t a bunch of giggly teens high on reefer as the poster would lead you to believe, but instead a journey of self discovery for two young men who happen to be connected by a common stanky bond.  Director Matt Walsh is most known for his work with the improv group Upright Citizen’s Brigade, their numerous collaborative efforts, and bit parts in films like Old School and Semi-Pro; but High Road marks Matt’s big screen directorial debut.  Main character Fitz (Pumphrey) loves three things in life: his band T.O.R.E.A.G.L.E, his girlfriend Monica (Elliot), and weed.  So when the Eagle’s days are up, Fitz turns to pot dealing for a career.  Through his work, Fitz befriends a high school student named Jimmy (O’Brien) who would rather hang out with the dead head than deal with a father struggling to connect and a mother no longer in the picture.  But when a client is busted with a large amount of Fitz’s drugs, paranoia kicks in and he decides to flee the area.  Heading to Oakland where his estranged father is located, Fitz plans to lay low and disappear from the grid.  All that goes to hell when Jimmy tags along though, and his father James (Riggle) hunts the two for fear Jimmy has been kidnapped.  Admittance, shenanigans, realizations, and lessons are all encountered along the road, which might be exactly what Fitz needs.  And viewers as well.  High Road starts out fairly slow, missing laughs and introducing repeatedly used “slacker with no motivation” character arcs.  All seems pretty cut and dry in Walsh’s freshman effort at first glance.  But then the likes of Riggle, Helms, and Lo Truglio appear which elevates comedy levels and introduces more familiar faces into the mix.  Each actor has hilarious stand out moments, but more importantly never overshadow Fitz’s quest.  These three superheroes not only help their own credibility either, also cranking up High Road entirely.  Fitz’s relationship with Jimmy suddenly becomes more engaging, other side characters become even funnier, and the story flows with a more sincere approach upon their introduction.  Thumbs up for casting.  Another major plus for this indie sleeper highlighted a script not falling into the trap of moronic pot humor ala Harold and Kumar 2, keeping High Road‘s heart in the right place.  Fitz’s soul-searching agenda gave actor James Pumphrey the freedom to toy with both gags and moments of true emotion, which were both achieved adequately.  But not all impressed based on the improv background of those involved.  Some banter and ramblings came off too hard as filler, merely to waste time on-screen and act as bumbling segways, or missed the mark completely.  Moments like this distract and annoy, but are counterbalanced by actual laughs and well executed one liners which save some face.  High Road was made with the best intentions, and squeaks out with enough enjoyment for a recommendation.  Did I love it?  No.  Did I like it?  Most definitely.  Is it worth the Netflix watch?  You could do a LOT worse.

Netflix Rating: 3/5

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About Matt Donato

I love all things film. I'll watch any genre, any actor, at any time. This whole film critic thing is a passionate hobby for now which I'm balancing with working in the business world, but hey, someday, who knows?
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