Kid Cannabis is full of comic lines and replete with a hazy, toked-up attitude. This is a stoner film without all the ‘dumb dudes’ and for those versed in the cannabis world it’ll be a 4.20 late night treat.
This is a film that will entertain and Kid Cannabis shows that stoner representation in film has come along way since Reefer Madness. Gone are the archaic dumb stoner tropes and instead this film could be considered as Trailer Park Boys, if they had brains.
Kid Cannabis is the true-story of reefer-loving high school student Nate Norman (Jonanthan Daniel Brown) who decides that delivering pizza isn’t the career path that he hoped for. Instead Nate changes job types entirely and ends up running a million-dollar cannabis business smuggling high-grade BC buds out of Canada. With a motley collection of his like-minded buddies, Nate does very well for himself in what’s mostly an untapped market.
“You wanna make money? Stick to what you know and love.”
It’s Nates and his friends love affair with cannabis that’s the driving force behind this film. John Stockwell penned the screenplay, directed the movie and he finds a tone that is at once relatable and overtly comic. Perhaps the most humorous touch is Nate’s frequent voice over’s as they reveal a kid that knows his market and job very well but also show that he’s very young and drawn by the easy money.
His chief enemy is a rival young drug dealer (they both have drug-funded homes on the same lake) Brendan Butler (Aaron Yoo) and it’s their conflict that introduces the darker more criminal side of the weed business. It’s not all smiling, spaced out hippies and there are some really dangerous characters that Nate and his young friends have to navigate and fight.
There’s good reason apparently for Nate and his friends moving into the illicit drug market. They’re young with little in the way of prospects and for Nate his mother serves as a motivating force. This love for his mother comes full circle towards the end of the film and shows that although Nate can be arrogant, brash, and controlling, he does have a strong sense of loyalty. This again is reflected in his relationship with some of the criminal elements funding his foray into the marijuana market.
Kid Cannabis is a film that can be seen as two halves. The first half is the kid’s story and it’s a fun and riveting journey (think Wolf of Wall Street). The young cannabis cartel seems untouchable and the dangers they experience are less of a threat than a warning to do their job better. The introduction of some adult and ostensibly big-time drug dealers suggests that the final half of the film won’t be so easygoing and safe. Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy, Drive) plays the main financer of the BC bud smuggling operation and his gruff, amusing performance of a flower shop owner cum criminal is one to watch out for.
The opening half of the film sees the young cannabis entrepreneurs donning camouflage fatigues and trekking across the border between Canada and the US. These early scenes are laugh-inducing fares that take the kids away from their safe, socially acceptable upbringings and give them an adventure. Regardless of the fact that they’re transporting drugs across international borders they’re having fun and they’re succeeding at something entirely on their own. There is something inspirational in these scenes, before they let the drug money change them, and it’s those early moments that stand out from the film as a whole.
As the film draws towards its conclusion and the loose ends are tied up it does begin to flounder. This is perhaps because so much of the film is interesting and different that the ending feels like a much more usual denouement. The final act is the most conventional and for those who got caught up in the ride it might seem anti-climactic.
Nate ends up paying the highest cost but his friends don’t escape unscathed either. It’s painful to see is embryonic cannabis business shot down by social values that it doesn’t agree with. Cannabis prohibition is changing in the US and there are a number of states embracing legalisation. It’s beginning to seem unenlightened to arrest people for using and distributing a substance that’s quickly becoming controlled. These kids were unlucky, they let their success get to their heads, and they had to pay a social and legal price – but perhaps not a moral one.
As chubby, bespectacled Nate puts it, “Mother nature gives us pot. Man made liquor. Who do you trust?”
Kid Cannabis is an unpredictable but hugely likeable stoner-fest. Brown delivers his lines with pitch perfect comedic timing and he’s an actor to watch out for in the future. Seth Rogen and his pals are all a little long in the tooth these days and so roles like those in Kid Cannabis have to go to younger actors. Jonathan Daniel Brown plays Nate with considerable weight and depth and for a stoner film that says a lot.
Kid Cannabis is not your conventional brain dead-toker. Instead it’s a film about a bunch of kids working with a medium they love. The considered screenplay and the representation of the stoners that inhabit it, never feels too stereotypical and this sets Kid Cannabis apart from the usual stoner flicks.