Thug Life! Review: Pineapple Express

August 11, 2008 at 3:29 pm Leave a comment

Apatow Productions serves up another comedy again written by the Superbad duo of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.  Pineapple Express, originally meant to be Rogen’s first starring vehicle, is a typical stoner comedy in the vain of Harold & Kumar and the legendary duo Cheech & Chong.  While there’s really nothing new, fans of previous Apatow Prod. movies (Superbad, 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up) will enjoy this summer romp of pot, guns, and laughs.

Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) is a mid-20’s process server, handing out subpoenas all day and then going home to smoke up.  His dealer is easy-going Saul Silver (James Franco), who sits at home, sells weed, and occasionaly harbors aspirations to be a great civil engineer.  Things, at first, look fine for the two: Dale is about to take a serious step in his relationship with 18-year-old (and still in high school) Angie, and Saul is saving up money to not only go to school and become a civil engineer, but to take care of his grandmother.  After leaving Saul’s apartment, Dale happens upon the execution of a man by Ted Jones (Gary Cole), one of the city’s most notorious drug traffickers.  Assisting in the murder is Carol (Rosie Perez) a cop involved with Jones.  Dale flees the scene, causing quite a racket, and drives back to Saul’s place.  Jones eventually figures out who the witness is and sends two hitmen (Kevin Corrigan and Craig Robinson) to kill them.  What follows is your typical buddy comedy, just withe more pot-smoking.

While not as good as other Judd Apatow-produced movies like Superbad or Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Pineapple Express works solely because of the situations they get into.  Not many movies would have a car chase where one driver has his foot through the windshield.  And, most of the scenes that ‘worked’ only did so because of one man: James Franco.  While Rogen may be the other leading man, and may also be Hollywood’s rising funnyman, Franco steals every scene.  He gives his character everything he’s got, really playing into the role.  Saul doesn’t seem to take things very seriously, but at the same time knows what needs to be done in order to get him and Dale out of their predicament.  In contrast, Rogen plays Dale very straight and a little uptight.  While he is funny, he didn’t illicit the same amount of laughs from me or the audience I saw this with.  My issue with Rogen isn’t whether he’s funny or not, but that he plays his characters all the same.  I don’t really see a difference between Dale and, say Cal, from 40-Year-Old Virgin or Ben Stone from Knocked Up.

Danny McBride also deserves mention for a hilarious performance as Red, Saul’s supplier.  He only has a supporting role, but he, too, steals each scene he’s in.  The rest of the cast is merely OK.  Craig Robinson is pretty funny as one of the hitmen, but he’s funnier as Darryl from The Office.  Gary Cole and Rosie Perez are a little wasted here, as they’re not given much to do.  Director David Gordon Green, the darling of some indpendent film circles, moves the movie along at a nice pace, but doesn’t really do much with his actors.  Franco was feeding the cast gold and Green, unfortunately, didn’t capitalize on that and push Rogen to go further.

What surprised me about this movie was the level of violence.  The execution of the Asian hitman early in the movie sort of ‘set the tone’ for the action, and showed what Saul and Dale were up against.  However, the feel of the movie was inconsistent with that show of force.  There’s also another scene with the hitmen taking someone out (I won’t spoil it here), and it was a little shocking, to the point where I was completely taken out of the movie for that scene.  The action ramps up at the end with a gun battle inside an abandoned farm/underground bunker, but it was so cartoony that it didn’t bother me as much.

Pineapple Express is probably best enjoyed with low expectations.  While I will say that it is a funny movie, the laughs don’t come as hard as they do in Forgetting Sarah Marshall or Superbad.  None of the characters, save for Saul Silver, are really memorable, and the script if pretty formulaic (there’s even a scene where the two buddie yell at each other and part ways, only to come to the realization that they need each other…like we’ve never seen that before in a buddy movie).  Fans of the Harold & Kumar movies, or other Apatow Productions projects, will probably enjoy this one.  Everyone else looking for great laughs may want to wait until this Wednesday, with the release of the much-hyped Tropic Thunder (so far, early reviews of that movie have been very good).  In the end, Pineapple Express is a funny stoner comedy probably best suited for an evening with friends at home.

7.5/10

(images from Yahoo! and Rotten Tomatos)

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