Sunday, September 7, 2008

Pineapple Express

DAN - Pineapple Express, directed by relatively unknown David Gordon Green, is a stoner comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. One of the characters witnesses a murder, and the pair of potheads are forced to run from hitmen and cops alike.

I’ll preface this review by saying that I didn’t get much sleep the night before watching the movie, and I found it difficult to stay awake through the second half. But I persevered for the sake of providing well-informed opinions for our readers, who will settle for nothing less.

This movie is odd. It wanders through comedic takes on various genres, most notably action and adventure. There are drug lords, assassins, and moments of violence that surpass Grand Theft Auto in over-the-top offbeat gore. It’s as if Cheech and Chong wandered into a poor-man’s combination of The Fugitive and Kill Bill.

I’ve noticed that I’m becoming increasingly tired of comedies like this that use improvised dialogue. It’s too obvious, and it bumps me out of the film. The man behind this trend is Judd Apatow, who produced similarly-styled films like Step Brothers, Superbad, Knocked Up, and Anchorman.

Having said that, there were a number of good scenes. Danny McBride, who is on his way to becoming a big name in comedy, provided some of the best moments in this movie.

I’m sure Pineapple Express was meant to be viewed while on the reefer, because even though it’s a comedy, I didn’t laugh enough. Maybe I just need to loosen up. If only there were some sort of inhalable substance that would keep me laid back... legally, of course.


- In late 2007, the Hollywood Insider came out with a list. This list ranked, in their opinion, the fifty smartest people in Hollywood. Conditions for such a list ranged from rules such as not only making smart films and movie decisions in the past, but to making smart movies now, while in the process, pushing the industry forward in a new and unique way. At the top of this great list, which contained legendary filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, and celebrated actors such as Meryl Streep and Will Smith, was none other than Producer/Director Judd Apatow. The reason he topped such a list? Well, to put it simply… smart and very funny movie making.

Mr. Apatow has brought us such classics as Anchorman, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Talladega Nights, Knocked Up, Superbad, and my most recent favorite Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Hit after hit, Judd Apatow has produced (and sometimes directed) many of our modern day comedy classics. After all, how many times did you or your friends find yourself confessing love for a lamp after seeing Anchorman for the umpteenth time?

So maybe now you can see why Judd Apatow is deserving of such a spot as the smartest man in Hollywood, and maybe why I was excited to see his latest produced comedy, Pineapple Express. So it burdens me with a heavy heart to reveal my sincere disappointment in what I was hoping to be a good movie.

Star and writer Seth Rogen (whom had impressed me once before with his witty and hilarious script in Superbad) failed not only to impress me as an actor, but also as a screenwriter. Rogen’s acting skills never impressed me to begin with, even though sometimes, when in the right role, the man can charm the pants right off of ya (not here however). It was nevertheless, his script’s dialogue, which in many scenes felt improvised and awkward, that caused this film to feel disjointed and uneven. And perhaps that was the issue; they should have stuck to the script instead of improvising. However, the larger offense done to the audience in this movie was its exposition.

In a horrible attempt to push the movie along it’s merry and at many times jarring plot, was some of the most ridiculous and unbelievable explanations and exploitations of plot and unlikely circumstances. True, this movie is in many regards what some would call a “pot-smoking movie” being that it contains much smoking of pot and or weed as it is sometimes referred to in many intellectual circles. And true, the movie was aimed at those certain intellectual circles that smoked said weed. Nonetheless, such horrible writing and execution of plot is truly unforgivable. And this here is where the problem lies.

Director David Gordon Green, whose previous experience was on serious independent drama up until this point, failed in many ways to form a cohesive and smart film. He should have called a halt to the improvising, which was truly out of hand in this movie, and made a more conscious effort to bring the film under the reigns of some of intelligence and coherent thought.

Now true, this was a “pot-smoking movie”, and yes it did and was meant to stretch the bounds of believability… which I’m all for. But you can’t force feed me a poorly constructed vehicle to drive the plot and expect me to get into that vehicle and ride in it to the end of the movie. It doesn’t work! Just like I’m sure my use of literary terms didn’t just work, or maybe it did. I don’t know… I go to Malone.

To be quiet honest, I think the real issue for me was that this movie had an important missing element… that wonderful, good feeling, Judd Apatow comedy charm. This movie had no charm. I didn’t fall in love with the characters, I didn’t route for the underdog, and my emotions weren’t carried away in the story. I was stuck in a theater… and I had gum on my shoe.

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