Date: August 6
David Gordon Green
Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride, Gary Cole, Rosie Perez
Time: Columbia Pictures, 111 mins.
Judd Apatow and his comedy factory are making their apologists work
overtime to explain which of their films are worth a damn and which
were thrown together by stunted man-boys who've figured out how to
make a buck off of high-school nostalgia. For a time, it seemed that
the involvement of Seth Rogen, either as a writer (Superbad)
or actor (Knocked Up), separated the wheat from the chaff. But
then Drillbit Taylor, a half-hearted mess thrown together for
Owen Wilson, took a chunk out of that section of the rubric. It was
co-written by Rogen, who now stars in and co-wrote the team's latest
film, Pineapple Express, which complicates matters further.
Unlike Drillbit, which didn't seem to know what it was aiming
for, Pineapple seems to be exactly the kind of shallow, flimsy
movie that Apatow and team set out to make. They aimed for a low
target and hit it square in the nuts.
by Rogen and Superbad's Evan Goldberg, Pineapple Express
presses forward into new areas not yet forged by these guys, but it
also seems to stagnate in the areas where they showed the most
promise. It's the story of a weed-smoking process server named Dale
(Rogen) who witnesses a murder and runs to his deadbeat drug dealer
Saul (Spider-Man's James Franco) for solace. The seeds of a
buddy movie begin to sprout when the paranoid delusions of these two
panicked stoners turn out to be true; the murderer really is trying
to hunt them down and kill them for knowing about his crime. The
movie then stirs a stoner comedy into a sleazy '70s action drama,
with uneven results.
has tapped director David Gordon Green to bring some new blood into
the usual game of wisecracking layabouts. He's better known as a
maker of moody dramas than drug comedies, and for Pineapple
he's brought along his cinematographer, Tim Orr, who's better known
for lush widescreen compositions than cheap-looking widescreen
compositions. Saul's apartment alone has a thousand funny
knick-knacks—a "Footprints in the Sand" poster, an antique chair—and Orr packs
them into the edges of the frame like bubble wrap. If these
characters weren't using cell phones, they might belong to an episode
may be a wacky pot movie, but Green demonstrates a control over
Pineapple Express that's lacking from the team's lesser
movies. He knows how to cut the fight scenes, when to cue the cheesy
music, and where to plug in the genre conventions. The movie is
crisp, but strangely it’s also wide open and aggressively stupid,
as if everyone came to the set with half-baked ideas and Green's
reliable response was "Let's try it."
yes, those things are worth a chuckle. Other times, not so much. It's
a brand of comedy straight out of The Blues Brothers, where
the humor, if it's to be found at all, comes from the attitudes of
small-scale characters roaming inside large-scale chaos.
crass humor of Apatow and Rogen's over-sexed, under-ambitious
characters is easiest to tolerate when it has a genuine heart under
the frizz and acne. Michael Cera in Superbad and Rogen himself
in Knocked Up play losers by association. They're only
slightly smarter than the deadwood around them, but when the chips
are down they're tender enough to shape up and treat women with
respect, thus distinguishing these modern comedies from, say, Porky's
and Revenge of the Nerds. Deftly handled sweetness has been a
hallmark of Apatow's best movies, but when it pops up in Pineapple
Express— in the male bonding, and in Dale's relationship with
his very young girlfriend—it's rote, insincere, and sidelined so
quickly it almost seems like a tease or a joke.
place of real people we have three caricatures: Dale, Saul and a
wild-card named Red, played by Danny McBride, who's doing a more
extreme version of the blowhard he played in The Foot-Fist Way.
At the end, seated in a diner, our three heroes reflect on the
movie's best fight scenes. They sound like screenwriters laughing at
their own jokes, but it's these moments when the distance between the
filmmakers and the audience disappears. If Pineapple Express
works at all, it's likely to be for people willing to slip into the
diner booth with these fellows and laugh along with them. The rest of
us will often feel like we're merely watching a stoned friend have
the time of his life.
it be funny if a fistfight with a woman cop were choreographed like
she's a guy, complete with the requisite kick to the groin? Wouldn't
it be funny if a villain crawling out of a manhole was rammed with a
cheap, imported vehicle and the driver acted like it's a total dis to
get killed by a Daewoo? And wouldn't it be funny if he punctuated the
insult by pointlessly blowing the dead guy's toes off with a shotgun?