Review: ‘Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja’

Think of it as the cinematic equivalent of a buzz-kill.

Think of it as the cinematic equivalent of a buzz-kill. Despite its focus on colorful characters and stranger-than-fiction events, “Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja” is a surprisingly dull and numbingly repetitious account of marijuana smuggling in South Florida during the 1970s and ’80s. Viewers likely will be doing a lot of fast-forwarding when this atypically tedious pic by vet documaker Billy Corben (“Cocaine Cowboys”) hits homevid April 19 after fleeting fest-circuit exposure.

A lumpy mix of archival material and talking-heads interviews, “Square Grouper” works best during the first of its three segments, a report on a fundamentalist Christian sect whose members (including small children) shocked their Miami neighbors during the ’70s by treating marijuana more or less as a sacrament. Other episodes — involving Miami smugglers zealously prosecuted by an image-conscious DEA and Everglades City fishermen who were too conspicuously successful as outlaws — reinforce the pic’s implicit critique of laws that criminalize the sale and possession of pot. Unfortunately, Corben’s inexplicably plodding approach ill serves the potentially fascinating subject matter. Title refers to bales of marijuana tossed overboard by smugglers while law-enforcement officials give chase.

Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja

Production

A Magnolia Pictures release of a Rakontur production. Produced by Alfred Spellman, Billy Corben, Lindsey Snell. Executive producer, Todd Glaser. Directed by Billy Corben.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Randy Valdes; editor, Jorge Diaz; music, DJ LeSpam. Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (Spotlight Premieres), March 18, 2011. Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Thomas Reilly, Clifton Ray Middleton, Robert Platshom, Robert Meinster.

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