MRR Review: "Kid Cannabis"

Photo Credit: Well Go USA Entertainment

Rating: NR
Length: 90 minutes
Release Date: April 18, 2014
Directed by: John Stockwell
Genre: Drama

Cannabis may still be illegal in most states, but the dark comedy-drama "Kid Cannabis" looks back with nostalgia at the days of smuggling the popular drug. Based on the real-life story of Nate Norman, this film follows the overweight high-school dropout as he builds his multi-million dollar business smuggling marijuana from Canada to Idaho. The story of an unlikely entrepreneur's rise, success and eventual downfall may sound familiar, but this film brings forth enough fresh ideas and colorful characters to build a surprisingly enthralling adventure.

In the early 2000s, Nate Norman (Jonathan Daniel Brown) is an 18-year-old pizza delivery boy and pothead who lives with his single mother and brother in a modest home in Idaho. Tired of his underachieving lifestyle and his family's never-ending economic problems, Nate gets the idea to start his own marijuana business. The Canadian border is not far away, and he can smuggle the drug over the ill-protected wilderness border before selling it in his hometown. Together with his buddy Topher (Kenny Wormald) and a ragtag team of fellow potheads, Nate starts up his business.

Nate and his group work with Barry Lerner (Ron Perlman), a drug kingpin who bankrolls them. They also team up with John Grefard (John C. McGinley), an Israeli drug grower who gives them a specialty marijuana to sell called B.C. bud. The boys face numerous challenges as they pick up the pot in Canada and carry it across the border wearing over-the-top camouflage suits. At times, they are close to getting caught, such as when they are stopped by a highway patrol officer in Canada. However, unexpected turns keep them off the radar, and they are soon making millions.

Not knowing what to do with their instant wealth, Nate and his friends begin living a lavish lifestyle of partying, drug use and scantily clad women. All the while, one of their top competitors Brendan Butler (Aaron Yoo) is becoming increasingly infuriated by Nate's success. This combination puts the team of smugglers in a vulnerable spot, and it is not long before their quickly built empire comes crumbling down.

"Kid Cannabis" runs in the vein of "The Wolf of Wall Street," but this time, the vast fortune revolves around illegal drug schemes. Like the aforementioned film, this movie is based on a true story that seems too improbable to be true. Nate Norman was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2004 for an illegal marijuana business that raked in roughly $40 million per year. The case is officially known as the B.C. Bud case by the FBI, and the events surrounding the case inspired this engaging film.

Jonathan Daniel Brown is perfect for his role, expertly portraying the low self-esteem of the young entrepreneur who ultimately achieves an enormously cocky and privileged attitude. Although the real-life Nate Norman is all but unlikable, audiences cannot help but sympathize with the character when Brown is filling his shoes. Kenny Wormald, known for his performances in "Footloose" and "Cavemen," is incredibly fun to watch. Experienced actors John C. McGinley and Ron Perlman round out the amateur cast with picture-perfect portrayals of their respective characters, bringing a deeper level of realism and seriousness to the film.

Thanks to great acting and commendable direction by John Stockwell, "Kid Cannabis" is a strong film that sucks viewers into Nate's world of smuggling success. However, there are a few elements in the film that leave something to be desired. For instance, the voice-over narration by Brown often seems distracting and unnecessary, taking away from the enthralling feeling that viewers would otherwise experience. Additionally, some of the situations seem too heavily dramatized to give the sensation of drawing from true events.

Despite these minor setbacks, "Kid Cannabis" never ceases to entertain. The tone is lighthearted throughout most of the film, using a clever balance of comedy and drama to create a fun experience that still feels grounded in reality. However, the mood shifts to a darker state in certain scenes, creating the perfect amount of tension. The pacing of the film feels just right for the story being told, never once being drawn-out or dull.

"Kid Cannabis" provides non-stop entertainment for viewers, but it is also a relevant film that covers important issues relating to the illegal drug trade and the lengths people will go to get the upper hand in a difficult economy. With talented actors and a story that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats, this film is one that audiences do not want to miss.