Millennium Entertainment // 2011 // 87 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // March 6th, 2012
The road less traveled is filled with pot holes.
From the warped mind of Upright Citizens Brigade alumn Matt Walsh, High Road is a wacky little comedy about the journey of a confused pothead who gets another chance at straightening out his life. Instead of sticking to the traditional script format, Walsh allows his cast improvise most of the film, based on a simple story outline developed with co-writer Josh Weiner (Code Monkeys). The experiment pays off, with a series of hilarious moments and vibrant performances energetic enough to overshadow the film's flaws...almost.
Although he smokes and sells a whole lot of weed on a daily basis, Glenn "Fitz" Fitzgerald (James Pumphrey, Players) claims he's not a drug dealer. According to him, he's just an artist. True, Glenn used to be part of a small rock band, but when the remaining two members of "Tor Eagle" decided to part ways and pursue gigs that actually pay, he was the one left behind, without a clue what to do next. At that time, the idea of growing and distributing weed seemed to be the answer to all his problems.
Since the painful "breakup" that sent Glenn into a state of depression, several months have passed. His loyal girlfriend Monica (Abby Elliott, Saturday Night Live) is climbing ranks at a local news channel, and his former bandmates seems to be doing relatively well for themselves. Glenn, on the other hand, spends most of this days selling dope and hanging out with 16-year-old buddy Jimmy (Dylan O'Brien, Teen Wolf). As fate would have it though, everything changes when one of his drug deals goes awry and Glenn is convinced he's being hunted down by the cops. Not ready to face the consequences of his actions, he decides to hit the road and lay low in Oakland, where he plans to visit an estranged father he hasn't seen in ages.
Although the premise of High Road may sound compelling at first, the story you get to experience in this stoner comedy isn't really that exciting. The lack of a proper script wreaks havoc with the plot early on, and for most of the film's 85-minute running time, you feel like you're watching in assemblage of small comedy sketches thrown together for no particular reason. Walsh and his actors do their best to keep an actual storyline alive as the movie progresses, but for the most part, the plot remains superficial, at times incoherent, and overall just plain ridiculous. If there is one piece of advice I can share at this point, it's not to look for any depth or purpose in High Road.
That said, if you're okay with the absence of a script, chances are you may enjoy at least some of what this indie comedy has to offer. Some scenes go on for way too long and a bunch of dialogue the actors come up with doesn't make a lot of sense, but overall, Pumphrey and his co-stars do a pretty solid job coming up with some amusing lines on the spot. Strangely enough, the resulting humor the improvisations generate mostly works, and a whole lot of segments in this film do manage to grab your attention. Of course, if it weren't for the cast, High Road wouldn't be this enjoyable. The characters we're dealing with here range from ridiculous and over-the-top to bizarre and at times obnoxious, and the cast members bring out the best of them.
Notable appearances include Rob Riggle as Jimmy's dad, who goes ballistic when he finds out his son hit the road with Glenn. Convinced his boy was kidnapped, he enlists the help of his buddy Fogerty (Joe Lo Truglio, Superbad), a wannabe police officer blessed with the film's most hilarious moments. Also showing up in limited capacity is The Hangover star Ed Helms, who plays Glenn's girlfriend's odd boss. Last but not least, I would like to mention Horatio Sanz and Lizzy Caplan, who both contribute a handful of witty conversations. Lack of an intriguing story aside, this group of talented performers somehow keep this movie interesting enough for viewers to keep watching till the end.
Production values are pretty high for a film with a very limited budget and no real script, and as a result, High Road looks just fine in high definition. The Blu-ray edition of the film boasts a decent 1.78:1 non-anamorphic (1080p) transfer, and the image looks mostly sharp and clean. Night sequences display a bunch of grain, but I've seen worse. In terms of audio, you'll be able to enjoy a strong 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Bonus features are scarce though, and the only thing you'll find on this disc an segment devoted to some interviews with cast and crew members. Don't worry, you won't miss anything if you decided to skip it.
I admit I had a pretty bad feeling about High Road when I first heard about it, but much to my surprise, Matt Walsh's improvised indie flick left me with a semi-positive feeling. Everything you get to experience in this film is about as brainless as it can get, but at the end of the day, High Road does a pretty solid job avoiding the regular disgusting slapstick and utterly vulgar, moronic dialogue. That definitely counts for something, considering there's not much to talk about in terms of story.
Surprise! Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Millennium Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Official Site