With all of the important issues going on in the world today, it’s somewhat silly that one of the major problems here in the States is marijuana. There are some who feel it should be illegal due to what it does to the brain, others feel that it’s somewhat harmless, and should not be illegal. Some states like Colorado and Washington are already pressing forward, by making pot legal. While I really do not have an opinion on the matter, marijuana has surprisingly led to some really quality films.
One of the shining examples of marijuana being the subject of a film is the Harold and Kumar series. Sure, the second film was mediocre, but all three films still displayed a lot of great laughs and good fun. A few other stoner films like Pineapple Express and Dazed and Confused brought in potheads and non-users alike. The latest film featuring marijuana is slightly different. Instead of being more of a comedy, Kid Cannabis is instead a crime story, but is still a fun and well-made flick.
Kid Cannabis follows the true story of Nate Norman, a high school drop out who transforms his love of pot into becoming a big time pot dealer.
After starring in the terrible found-footage flick Project X, it seemed like Jonathan Daniel Brown did not have a future as an actor. Surprisingly though, he carries Kid Cannabis with a genuinely great performance. Brown really adds a great deal of depth to the film as Norman, who throughout shows that he is not your stereotypical drug dealer. He really is a nerd in a lot of ways, as throughout the film he stumbles as he tries to be suave and cool.
Brown really paints a character who rides the line between this guy full of loyalty to those who had done him right, but also someone who becomes extremely arrogant as his power begins to grow. This inner conflict made Norman feel like a genuine character, rather than either being this sort of martyr type figure or just an extreme asshole. Why more biopics can’t do this is a mystery to me.
Brown’s great leading performance here is supported by a solid cast. Ron Perlman always does interesting roles; from a superhero like Hellboy to selling monster parts in Pacific Rim, he always seems to surprise audiences. Perlman here plays one of Norman’s clients, and does a solid job with another one of his odd eccentric accents. Another favorite character actor of mine has to be John C. McGinley, and even though he only has a few scenes, he largely steals every moment on screen with some great wisecracks.
In a lot of ways, Kid Cannabis has been a passion project of John Stockwell since its origin. He had been working on the script since 2008, and seemed to have really fought to make this film. When a filmmaker fights for a project that they so desire to make, it’s always a good sign, and Stockwell displays why he made such a fight for this film.
Behind the director chair, Stockwell really delivers. Most known for directing a very mixed resume, Stockwell delivers what I feel is his best directed film yet. Stockwell directs this film with a real sense of swagger, with a lot of bold and in your face stylistic moments. For a film that is often times very energetic, that bold style really worked well. Stockwell also keeps the audience involved throughout, with the film’s 105 minute running time flying by like a breeze.
Matching the direction is the script, which Stockwell composes with the same sort of swagger. Dialogue here is often times quite potent, creating quite a few big laughs that really land due to this talented comedic cast. Stockwell’s script also features a fair share of naturalistic dialogue, with the interactions of Norman and his friends feeling very much authentic to what pot heads who really do not have much of a life talk about.
While the film is great throughout the first two thirds, the last third drops off largely because of major tonal changes. Instead of going on its same trajectory, Kid Cannabis’ third act is more about the rivalry between Norman and competitor Brendan Butler. Compared to the rise and fall tale of Norman, this felt much less interesting and far more cliched. This arc in general also ends on a very anti-climatic note, which kind of came out of nowhere for me. I know it’s part of the true story, but this aspect was not integrated in a very smooth manner.
Even with some great stylistic touches, others John Stockwell inserts feel cheap. Kid Cannabis features large portions of narration, which have dialogue that is supposed to come off both as clever and insightful. To me, this narration just became more of a nuisance than anything else, as the narration does very little to push the story forward, or show much insight into Norman as a person.
One other aspect of Stockwell’s script that is lacking is in the supporting characters. Aside from Norman, most of the supporting characters in the film are largely empty. Almost everyone in his group of friends just kind of blend in as one person, with only one of them having a few character traits that make him slightly different. Even his best friend in the film has a very basic character structure.
While far from perfect, Kid Cannabis is an engaging rise and fall story with a great sense of style and an impressive lead performance by Jonathan Brown.
Take a Drink: each time a character smokes
Take a Drink: for each party scene
Take a Drink: during each drug run scene
Do a Shot: whenever a character is pulled over