Pineapple Express

Pineapple Express (2008)
USA. Comedy/Action. 111 minutes. Directed by David Gordon Green. Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco, Gary Cole, Rosie Perez, Danny R. McBride, Amber Heard, Kevin Corrigan, Craig Robinson, Ed Begley Jr, Nora Dunn, Ricky Dôminguez, Joe Lo Truglio, Arthur Napiontek, Cleo King, Bill Hader, James Remar. Cinematography by Tim Orr. Edited by Craig Alpert. Production Design by Chris L. Spellman. Set Decoration by Bob Kensinger. Music by Graeme Revell. Casting by Kerry Barden, Billy Hopkins, Suzanne Smith. Costume Design by John A. Dunn. Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg Produced by Judd Apatow and Shauna Robertson.

11 November 2008

Finally, a new movie that didn’t really match my expectations. I have seen so many good movies recently I’ve been starting to wonder if I’m going soft as a serious, albeit amateur, film critic.
Pineapple Express – or Excess, have it whichever way you want it – is the result of the unexpected collaboration between producer Judd Apatow (you know, male-buddy-comedies like The 40 Year Old Virgin, Superdad, etc) and director David Gordon Green, a typically ”serious, young American film director” who has already done of the year’s best movies in the quiet small town drama Snow Angels.
As it happens, I got my hopes up after seeing the Apatow produced Forgetting Sarah Marshall earlier this year – not only was it intelligent and hit all the marks when it came to joking about social behaviour, unlike other Apatow movies, but it was as charming and funny as anything I’ve seen in recent years. A lightweight movie, but a heavyweight in quality nonetheless and proving that good comedies are to be taken as seriously as any good films that are more ”serious”. So Apatow and Green crossing paths isn’t that unbelievable at all, if you think about it.

This movie starts off with the laid back slacker Dale (Seth Rogen) cruising around in what appears to be a job – he delivers enveloupes, basically giving bad news to people, but he’s sure to be doing it with a smile since he’s constantly smoking dope. He’s together with a high school girl (Amber Heard), which is probably saying more about Dale than he himself would like to admit.
Anyway the express gets going when Dale gets hung up at the apartement of our second hero: The even more severly slacked down drug dealer Saul (James Franco). Saul affectionally provides Dale with the newest and most rare weed available – the ”Pinapple Express” – and floating out of the apartement, Dale gets to the house of Ted Jones (Gary Cole) to deliver him a summon. As it turns out, Ted is a major drug lord who’s just in the process of cleaning his composition from the ”Asian gang” (yeah, you know, the random ”Asian gang”) – So Dale flees in panic after witnessing the murder, as loud and clumsy as can be, leaving behind his blount of Pinapple Express, instantly recognisable for Ted who naturally orders death for Dale and Saul; who now has to try and stay alive, a task proven to be difficult since they are on a constant high, stumbling through one unlikely situation after another.

There are moments in Pineapple Express that you just have to love. How about when Dale, bloody and smelling ”like shit”, rushes into his girlfriend’s house to keep her safe, only to find her sitting by the table with her parents, waiting for him to attend the dinner he promised to show up for. Or the inexplicably funny farce that introduces our third hero, another likeable semi-looser Red (Danny R. McBride), where you have duck tape, ashtrays flung to the head, phones being flushed down the toilet for no apparent reason (with the victorious cry ”Toooiiiileeet…..!”) or dialogs like this:
– I see your intentions
– I see your intentions. I see your intestines and your intentions
– What did I have for dinner last night?
– Cake.
– ….. I’ll be right back

Basically all of the time people are shouting and hyperventilating, high on dope in car chases, or derranged fist fights or, well, the entire ending with ninja drug thugs on war, armed with machine guns, quoting Bruce Springsteen before going into action (no joke) I’m enjoying myself. All of this is done well by Green, who has a wonderful eye for the widescreen format, making his best effort to cram in as much nice visual content as possible. It’s a little strange to see such a well directed stoner-farce. It’s pretty funny, a bit like if you would imagine Paul Thomas Anderson doing a Cheech & Chong movie with a Kevin Smith screenplay. Yeah, imagine that. Actually, that’s not a bad idea.

I’d also like to mention the nice little subtle touches, and the gay overtones (or is this movie unintentionally gay? In that case, if the guys behind all this imagine themselves as a bunch of all straight beer drinking buddies, they should take a long, good look in the mirror), in the screenplay and amongst the actors – all the characters are capable of such insane behaviour and at the same time such utterly cosy friendliness (like how the bitch thug Budlofsky (Kevin Corrigan) say to the butch thug Matheson (Craig Robinson), ””I might act tough… but I got alotta feelings… and you hurt damn near everyone of them!”) Many lines in this movie are T-shirt material on their own.

It is as a whole that Pineapple Express falls as a fairly flawed excercise. The craziness that makes it enjoyable comes off like numbers in a musical; Whenever the movie stops and get into some weird hysteria, that’s when I’m enjoying it. But these sequences are always good for themselves, and do not serve the movie, that in fact has a story and a plot that I didn’t really connect to, since the characters themselves don’t really seem to care wheter or not they live or die. I guess it might be much to ask from a movie like this to have some solid story element besides dope (and you know, ”male bonding”) but I think that when a movie clocks nearly two hours of your time, it should at least have a story and not just checkpoints where you can pause for the enjoyment of sticking a fork into somebody’s back, be that as fun as it may be.