President Obama made some news by saying the N-word during a podcast yesterday. CNN quotes the President, “It’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public.” It may not be polite, but evidently the word is frequently used in the black community because it’s heard hundreds of times in Rick Famuyiwa’s movie Dope, set in “The Bottoms” neighborhood of Inglewood, California.

Names are eschewed as every character is referred to as, you know, that word the president used. Even white slacker and hacker Will Sherwood (Blake Anderson) figures he’s close enough to Malcolm (Shameik Moore), Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori), to use the word but, Diggy will have none of it.

While there’s plenty of N-word saying and drug dealing, this is a coming-of-age movie using Hollywood’s tried and true formula.  Think Pretty in Pink in Compton. The very earnest Malcolm lives with his single mother and hangs out with his two friends, Diggy and Jib. They are ostracized at school for doing “white things” (getting good grades and applying to college) rather than hanging out with the local gangs. They are also 90’s hip-hop culture aficionados (these references were completely lost on me) and perform as the punk-rap band Aureoh.

Malcolm, with straight As and a perfect SAT score, has his sights set on Harvard, but is told by the guidance counselor he’s arrogant for having lofty goals. And, while he has a big brain, the jocks keep beating him up and stealing his shoes. So there you have it, the lovable geeky virgin with equally uncool friends, doesn’t have a date for the prom. This being 2015, Diggy is a lesbian and Jib is, well, of unknown ethnicity (but is allowed to use the word the president used as he claims to be 14% black).

Nakia (Zoë Kravitz, being every bit as hot and cool as her dad Lenny) is the unreachable object of Malcolm’s desire.  But she’s with street corner drug peddler Dom (Rakim Mayers or A$ap Rocky). “It’s complicated,” says Nakia, who is studying for the GED, needs Malcolm’s help, and is hoping to get accepted at a local junior college if she passes.

Nothing to get excited about except, this movie, with Sean “Puffy” Combs, Forest Whitaker, and Pharrell Williams among its producers, has more that a few intelligent surprises. Within minutes of the start Malcolm tells his mother, a city bus driver, about bitcoin. “Math is money?” she wonders. Latter on, as the plot thickens, Malcolm and his friends peddle molly in un-ghetto like fashion by developing a Silk Road-like website and accepting only the cyber-currency.

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 6.48.48 PMWhen Malcolm asks about converting the bitcoin to dollars, Will says words to the effect, that defeats the purpose of avoiding fiat currency.

The dialog isn’t all clever, but then again, the makers of Dope aren’t looking to fill theaters with 58 year-olds with an ear for economics. So, that word Obama used starts and finishes most parts of the script.  Also, there’s plenty of booty shaking, masterbating, and vomiting for humorous effect.

While he gave viewers credit, allowing them to laugh along and get his message for nearly 100 minutes, at the end, Famuyiwa ham-handedly preaches to moviegoers with Malcolm’s video essay about how people shouldn’t be judged by the color of their skin.  As James Berardinelli writes in his excellent review, “Famuyiwa doesn’t need the speech but, because he provides it, the net effect is to weaken its impact.”

And so it is with that word the president used. The more you hear it, the weaker the impact.