Silas (Method Man) is a much respected fellow in his neighbourhood, not because of his legal contributions to society but because of his illegal contributions: he grows the best marijuana around, and has a plant for every occasion. Today his friend Ivory (Chuck Deezy) is looking for some merchandise as a girl he contacted on the internet is coming round and she wants to watch Kevin Costner movies so Ivory needs something to get him through the experience. Needless to say the evening goes badly, with him losing his girl and falling out of window after setting himself on fire by accident - but Silas has a tribute to pay him...
Obviously the king of stoner comedies is Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke, but with How High there was a strong contender for - whisper it - an even funnier film on the subject. By striving hard for the absolutely ridiculous, here was a film that was not only more professionally made, but had a larger quotient of laughs to be garnered; sure, without Cheech and Chong this would probably never have been made, it was a vehicle for two rappers after all, but with Dustin Abraham's script behind them they proved themselves as adept comedians.
And so a cult success was born, with substantial returns on what was a fairly small budget. The plot has Ivory's ashes being mixed in with the compost of Silas' latest plants, with the result that anyone who smokes it is given a very high I.Q. - although what is actually happening is that Ivory's ghost is feeding the smoker the answers to any question they have to answer. With Silas and his new best friend Jamal (Redman) looking to go to college (again), this could be exactly what they need to better their stations in life, and when Harvard comes calling, looking for ethnic diversity, the boys jump at the chance.
The most obvious antecedent to this is Animal House as it's essentially a campus comedy, complete with uptight Dean - absurdly named Dean Cain (Obba Babatundé) - out to spoil our heroes' fun, given an additional racial charge by all three being black with the Dean seeing Silas and Jamal as an embarrassment. And vice versa, of course. You can count off the clichés as they arise: the upper class twit who takes on the protagonists and loses both his girlfriend and a rowing contest, the wild party that gets way out of control, and the nerds who get to unwind with both the opposite sex and soft drugs.
In fact, weed here is the great leveller, the solution to any problem achieved whenever someone takes a puff of a herbal cigarette, with the finale seeing everyone (except the Dean) having a fine old time, including the next President of the United States (Jeffrey Jones). Before we reach that uplifting climax, we are treated to such daftness as Silas and Jamal digging up John Quincy Adams' grave to smoke his remains or the African American verison of Field of Dreams seen through a drug-fuelled haze. You get to thinking that maybe the characters are doing a teensy wee bit too much partaking considering the amount of hallucinating they wind up doing, but it's all in the service of more laughs. Densely packed with gags, How High is far better than you might expect - and it was directed by Bob Dylan's son as well.