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A would-be Scarface for young stoners, Kid Cannabis relates the true-life tale of Nate Norman, an overweight high-school dropout and pizza delivery man, who built a multimillion-dollar business smuggling marijuana from Canada to his native Idaho before eventually getting caught and sentenced to prison for 12 years. John Stockwell’s (Blue Crush, Into the Blue) film, based on a 2005 Rolling Stone article detailing the outlandish tale, has its entertaining moments and boasts pungent performances from such supporting players as Ron Perlman and John C. McGinley, but never quite succeeds in managing its uncomfortable tonal shift from dark comedy to true-crime thriller.
An amusing Jonathan Daniel Brown stars as the enterprising Norman, a self-described loser who nonetheless proved remarkably adept at becoming a drug kingpin specializing in his favorite recreational substance. Partnering with his best friend, Topher (Kenny Wormald, Footloose), and enlisting the services of a gang comprising fellow potheads, he soon finds himself grossing a million dollars a week. Lavishing his newfound riches on his flabbergasted mother, he reassures her by explaining that he’s cashed in on a lucrative IPO.
Among the shady characters with whom he partners are a pot grower (McGinley) who proudly shows off the high-class weed he’s developed after many years of cultivation; a quietly menacing businessman (Pearlman) whose chain of cell phone stores serves as a cover for his underworld activities; and a cocky young rival (Aaron Yoo) for the increasingly booming illegal activity.
Although the film begins promisingly with many amusing moments — such as when, during a traffic stop, Norman is advised by a Canadian highway patrolman exactly where to go to get the best pot — it eventually degenerates into all-too-familiar territory as the nerdy drug smuggler and his cohorts lay the groundwork for their eventual fall with excessive debauched partying and cocaine use. Director-screenwriter Stockwell, clearly inspired by the likes of Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese, displays a similar overindulgence in these repetitive scenes in which the gang’s nubile female playthings are constantly shown either nude or in various stages of undress.
Equally grating is the omnipresent voiceover narration by the central character that proves more cliche-ridden than illuminating.
As with so many similar cinematic true-life tales, the overly schematic film concludes with a series of title cards informing us of its principal characters’ eventual fates. Unfortunately, by that point we have long since ceased to care.
Opens April 18 (Well Go USA Entertainment)
Production: Crush Films, Wingman Productions, Imprint Entertainment
Cast: Jonathan Daniel Brown, Kenny Wormald, Aaron Yoo, Ron Perlman, John C. McGinley
Director-screenwriter: John Stockwell
Producers: Gordon Bijelonic, Corey Large, Michael Becker
Executive producers: Alan Pao, Datari Turner, Alison Lee, Rosanne Gooding-Silverwood, Mark Silverwood, Bic Tran, Mia Chang, Cain McKnight, Steve Ware
Director of photography: Peter Holland
Editors: James Renfroe, Jon Berry
Production designers: Chad Krowchuck, Daren Sasges
Costume designer: Ashley Jephcott
Composer: Irv Johnson
Rated R, 105 minutes
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