Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Pineapple Express


There's the urge to give Pineapple Express a pass because they smoke a buttload of pot throughout the film. The thing about movies that depict getting high, or fucking for that matter - they never get it right compared to reality. To make a drug themed film work a filmmaker either has to make subtle references to reefer that leave you lightheaded (The Wonder Boys, The Big Lebowski) or just make it an all out smokefest like ye Cheech and Chong movies of olde. Pineapple Express tries to give us a movie that's like being situated in a room full of chronic smoke with no ventilation but then after a couple of reels it's like someone switched on the air, someone opened the window. The highness wafts out while the normality of formula creeps in.
Everyday schlub pothead Seth Rogen (Dale) wakes and bakes. Hooking up with his connection James Franco (Saul) he scores the holy grail of nickname pot, Pineapple Express. Much of the first act tales place in Saul's apartment and there's a fresh camaraderie between Rogen and Franco that you want to explore. Saul sits perpetually stoned watching reruns of 70s era shows while Dale works perpetually stoned serving subpoenas after donning a disguise. For instance Dale uses a white lab coat to enter a hospital to serve a doctor about to operate. Some clever situations could've come from this dysfunctional identity complex since neither dude has met his inner dude, Saul because of his isolation and Dale because of his subterfuge.
That's not the joint director David Gordon Green or producer Judd Apatow have twisted. The film merges into a violent drug war scenario only all the baddies are one-note characters that exist only to spout orders and try to kill Saul and Dale. In other words a complete waste of Rosie Perez, Gary Cole, and Kevin Corrigan (I swear he's doing his best Walken impersonation.) Craig Robinson who stole a scene in Knocked Up as the club doorman gets a few choice one-liners while Danny McBride has the unfortunate flaw of being the guy who gets shot multiple times but doesn't die while everyone else gets shot and dies. That's how the script appears to be innovative. Hey let's shoot one of the supporting characters every few hours and play his bleeding for laughs. Here he is bleeding and saving the day. Here he is bleeding and eating breakfast at Denny's.
Other than Green all the principals here were also involved on Superbad, probably the best comedy of the last few years. Pineapple Express doesn't even share DNA with Superbad but compared to, say, Get Smart or The Love Guru, yeah it's funny.
A weird black-and-white prologue shows a military marijuana experiment, featuring Bill Hader and James Remar, set in the 1930s, that seems all but forgotten by the time Pineapple Express' third act rolls around and it's the same location. There's an 80s vibe in the buddy ethics of Dale and Saul right down to the Huey Lewis song over the end credits. Franco wears a t-shirt with a cat in a shark's mouth that was a design sold at Urban Outfitters a few years ago.


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