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Monday, September 15, 2008

PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (2008) - David Gordon Green

Stoner movies are something of a rarity nowadays. They’re don’t exactly fit in with what the studios want to release. Drugs are bad, mmkay? Obviously, due to the very nature of marijuana, stoner movies are inevitabely comedies. But sometimes it helps to cross-pollinate a comedy with another genre and that’s exactly what’s at hand in Pineapple Express, a new film from the Judd Apatow factory. It follows some of formula what we’ve expect from these films, but is geared more towards older audiences.

Dale Denton is a process server. It’s a job that makes him few friends, but allows him to pursue his passion in life- smoking weed. It’s a firm advocate of the drug and spends his days getting stoned and delivering summons to unsuspecting people... and getting called asshole, dickhead and all manner of other names in the process. He gets his weed from Saul, a well-meaning and genuinely nice pot dealer. Albeit one who’s brain is somewhat mush due to his consumption of copious amounts of weed. While delivering a summons, Denton witness a murder. He in turn is spotted by the murderers. He takes off back to Saul’s but the joint he threw out his car window leads the murderers to Saul. So Denton and Saul take off with gangsters and a crooked cop baying for their blood.

Pineapple Express is a strange film. What’s immediately strange about it is that it’s directed by indie darling David Gordon Green. Green has directed some pretty heavy dramas such as George Washington and All The Real Girls. But Pineapple Express is a total departure for the director. It’s laughs and bullets, something Green fans will not be expecting from the director. But the script is written by star Seth Rogen, so by that, the film isn’t lost.

The other strange thing about the film is one of it’s weaknesses. At times, I didn’t feel like the filmmakers were sure what exactly type of film they were making. When it’s funny, it hits the mark quite well. However, when the action kicks is, and the bullets fly, things begin to fall apart. There are moments when the two parts gel, but these moments are few. The best thing about the film is James Franco’s turn as Saul Silver. There have been many screen stoners, but Franco’s manages to be hilarious and still be the heart of the film. He’s a lovable character, not just because of his idiotic ideas and comments, but also because he’s just a lonely guy looking for a friend. Seth Rogen has carved a niche as the loser with good intentions in these movies, so he’s not out of his depth.

There are other familiar faces on show. Gary Cole and Rosie Perez play the villains, weed dealer Ted Jones, and the crooked cop, Carol. Cole has played villains to a certain extent before. Most famously in Office Space where he played Bill Lumbergh. So he’s got the bad guy thing down. And Perez just seems to be caustic no matter what she plays. Other familiar faces such as Danny R. McBride, Bill Hader and Ed Begley Jnr. fill out the cast. But it’s Rogen and Franco who are the stars, and they make a great team. Though having started out together in Freaks And Geeks, that’s not unusual to see.

Pineapple Express works on some levels and falls flat on others. It’s a funny film, don’t get me wrong. But the best moments are reserved for when Franco’s on screen and you do miss Saul Silver when he’s not around. It’s a film that isn’t quite sure of itself. But at the same time, it’s got great moments. It’s one of those films destined to be a cult movie. And it’ll no doubt be another success for the Apatow factory.



Aidan said...

While i'm not mad about the film, I felt Hot Fuzz did a much better job of melding the action and comedy genre. And I think the real problem with this is its long running time. Shave 25 or 30 minutes off and I think a lot of the negative aspects would have been more easily forgiven. Comedy needs to be snappy and well edited and it's the one place the Apatow films, particularly the ones Rogen has written, fail.

Peter Slattery said...

Yeah, there's a substantial part in the middle that could be trimmed.