Pineapple Express

The most recent comedy from the Judd Apatow studio tells the tale of two stoners on the run in a small town, after one of them witnesses a murder, and unwittingly gets the two involved in a turf war between rival drug dealers. The film is Directed by David Gordon Green, and was written by star Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg.

Dale Denton (Rogan) leads a simple, and self-satisfying lifestyle. He works happily in disguise after disguise serving legal papers to people for all sorts of things, and loves every moment of it. He spends most of his spare time smoking a joint, and blissfully numb to the realities of the world. He is also dating an eighteen year-old high schooler, Angie (Amber Heard), and tries to come to terms with the fact that boys her own age look at her with the same lust he does, and also that she wants him to meet her parents (Ed Begley, Jr and Nora Dunn) over dinner the following evening. After obtaining new and very potent weed (nicknamed Pineapple Express) from his dealer, Saul (James Franco), Dale heads out to serve papers to a Mr. Ted Jones (Gary Cole). While smoking his new weed and waiting for Mr. Jones to appear, a short latino cop (Rosie Perez)pulls up to the house, goes inside and assists Jones in killing a rival Asian drug dealer. Having witnessed this from the street, Dale flips out and speeds off to hide at Saul’s, leaving his halfway smoked joint in the street outside Jones’ house. Soon, Saul and Dale are on the run and hiding from Jones’ hitmen, sent out to find them and silence them.

I’ll be honest, I had heard next to nothing about this movie until the previews began appearing on T.V. a few weeks ago. I’ve not read any reviews of the film, and the film looked kinda wierd from what I did see. Also, Judd Apatow’s films have been largely hit or miss with me. Superbad was horribly unredeemable, while Knocked Up was hilarious the first time, and then lost most of its luster upon repeat viewings. 40-Year Old Virgin stands as the only true gem in the Apatow resumee so far (I haven’t yet seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall), and the only one that has stood the test of time, however short a time it has been. Now, on a total whim, I walked unprepared into a theater and viewed Pineapple Express, and I’ll admit, I was very nervous in parts of the opening half-hour. Rarely did I laugh, and I found myself looking at my watch a few times in that opening act of the film, but I’m here to say that once it got going, Express ends up being a pretty enjoyable ride…part of the time anyways. Mostly, I was left wanting alot more, and came expecting more from an Apatow film.

Complaints aside for a moment…The chemistry between stars Seth Rogan and James Franco is undeniably good, and the true comedic genius of Rogan continues to amaze me with each film he appears in. Apatow also seems to enjoy rebuilding the “guy comedies” and puts his own touch on both the stoner movie and the buddy action film in one shot here. To this point, Apatow’s films (either Directed or Produced, like here) have been acclaimed by boths the public and critics alike for the tender emotional scenes and the honest humanity found within the scripts. That this film has recieved no such praises, and performed well under expectations so far, should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen the film, wiether they enjoyed it or hated it. While both Virgin and Knocked Up has there share of raunchy jokes and sexual behavior, both still contained at the core, a very big heart. The same can not be said for Express, which is largely a modern day Cheech and Chong movie, with a touch of the inuendo-style humor found in both Beavis and Butthead and Austin Powers. When you sit back and analyze it, it really is just another stoner movie, and (in its way) a road trip movie where seemingly random events occur to get the main characters from point A to B to C.

Nowhere in the film, occasionally enjoyable or not, can you find a clear message or a higher purpose the film represents. The film proceeds randomly and without purpose, and rarely takes any time for tender moments between the newly appointed friends. Despite this, we do go along for the ride and the journey they take, both on the run from drug dealers, and as growing friends is believable and mostly enjoyable. The action sequences are highly entertaining, and well placed in the film. Usually each time I found myself rolling my eyes or looking at my watch, an action scene would start, and they are not only fun, but also exceedingly original and brutal. That was a surprise for me in this film, the gore and subtle violence throughout the film is intense, and plays into the guy movie motiff that the Rogan and Apatow obviously were shooting for.

A sequence or two I did really enjoy usually involved the very same, over the top style action. The car chase in the cop car is hilarious and exciting all at the same time. From beginning to end that sequence is flawless, especially the bit with Franco getting his foot stuck in the windshield, after attempting to kick it out. Also the fight in Red’s (Danny McBride) house is wonderfully funny, and McBride plays that part very well. But for every one or two good scenes (also including the bit where Rogan enters his teenage girlfriends house and tries to convince her parents that drug dealers are coming to kill them), there are some painfully bad or slow ones. Early in the film, alot of the scenes seem to struggle with keeping the pace up while establishing the characters, which is surprising from an Apatow film. I thought both the high school sequence and the woods sequence were both awful and is basically when I found myself looking at the ceiling for a bit.

Flaws aside, I can see this movie being very popular on DVD with the 14-20 year old guys in high school and college, because that is the films target audience. The fact that I didn’t enjoy the film more honestly makes me feel kinda old. There was a day, not long ago, that this was exactly what I was looking for in a movie. Now, I not only want more in a film, I demand it, and in a summer that has brought so many high quality films, how can we lower our standards for a run of the mill guy comedy? I feel bad, because I can see why the film would be popular, but none of those reasons clicked with me. Did I laugh in certain parts? Yes. Did I enjoy the movie? Sorta, but not consistantly. Parts of this movie are great and highly entertaining, and just plain fun. Then parts of it are over the top and stupid, and some of it is also boring. I feel sorta like the 1 guy on the planet who gave Dark Knight a bad review here, and now know what he felt like, but the movie just didn’t click all the way for me.

Sadly, I am looking for more in my movies these days. Even the carefree and message-devoid guy comedies.

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