J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Kid Cannabis: The Canadian Connection

It was a case that just might change how you think about Idaho. Potatoes are still the state’s cash crop, but there was (and presumably still is) plenty of “B.C. Bud,” as in British Columbia, just across the border. For an awkward high school drop-out, it represented an opportunity that turned out to be golden—at least for a while. Based on the true stoner story of Nate Norman, John Stockwell’s Kid Cannabis (trailer here) opens this Friday in New York.

Norman started at the bottom of the social pyramid in his sleepy Idaho town. Delivering pizzas to support his troubled single mother and younger brother, he and his mate Topher Clark have only one pleasure in life—weed. Unfortunately, the local dealer, privileged adoptee Brendan Butler, only sells crummy stems and seeds at inflated prices. However, it is a different world up in Nelson, Canada. After a bit of reconnoitering, the lads blunder into a dream supplier: organic farmer and connoisseur John Grefard.

Hiring his misfit high school cronies as runners, Norman establishes a high volume trafficking operation, with the financial backing of Barry Lerner, a vaguely Russian sounding gangster and cell phone store magnate. When the money starts flooding in, Norman and Clark predictably lose their heads binging on drugs, parties, and women. Unfortunately, rather than finding competitive inspiration from Norman’s lower prices and higher quality product, Butler opts to go gangster.

Right, this is a total stoner movie. Even if only a handful of people see Kid in theaters this Friday, nearly every frat boy in America will know it by heart in a few years. True to genre form, it gives the outward appearance of a cautionary morality tale, but really implies the good times were totally worth it.

As if the hedonistic excesses were not enough, Kid also has Ron Perlman and John C. McGinley for cult film fans. Perlman could probably play Lerner is his sleep, but he is still cool as Fonzy whenever he is on-screen. While McGinley only appears in an early sequence, he memorably supplies the film’s (thoroughly high) voice of reason. Happily, Jonathan Daniel Brown exceeds expectations as Norman, largely avoiding lazy shtick and cheap sentiment. In contrast, the rest of his criminal associates are a dull, colorless lot, except for Aaron Yoo chewing the scenery like a hash brownie as the increasingly erratic Butler. In fact, Norman’s best bud Clark is so lifeless, one might assume he is a refuge from a zombie flick.

Evidently Stockwell is quite the working director, with Kid opening a mere two weeks after the release of In the Blood. Nobody will accuse him of being an auteur or a pretentious stylist (even if he was part of Andy Warhol’s inner circle), but he has a knack for keeping things snappy. It all flows along nicely, keeping viewers hooked, despite telegraphing exactly where it is all headed.

Remember kids, drugs are bad and trafficking is really, really dangerous. While not exactly a good movie per se, Kid Cannabis is something of a guilty pleasure that certainly accomplishes everything it sets out to do. Recommended for those who will relate, Kid Cannabis opens this Friday (4/18) in New York at the Village East.

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