Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pineapple Express: Stoner Humor For . . . Well, Stoners.

The Good: In the middle third, it is actually funny, Moments of performance
The Bad: Largely dumb humor, Long stretches that aren't funny, Characters, Predictable plot
The Basics: In a ridiculous and often pointless comedy, Pineapple Express allows Rogen and Franco to reunite to run around like stoned idiots for hours, with minimal entertainment value.

With almost twenty-eight hundred reviews written in this blog, I might have something of a reputation as a curmudgeon of a reviewer . . . if anyone did the type of analysis on my reviews that I do on my own. I suffer for the honesty and integrity of my reviewing process; I have a philosophy and a broad range of experiences which allows me to write with both perspective, authority and a unique voice.

I mention this at the opening to my review of Pineapple Express because it seems like Judd Apatow has hit the extremes of my ratings, with Freaks And Geeks (reviewed here!) scoring high and my inability to stand The 40 Year Old Virgin. And yes, I have been so unimpressed with many of his other endeavors - just from the trailers - that I have more or less avoided them (bad reviewer! I know). So when Apatow's latest endeavor - co-written and co-produced by Apatow's everyman made celebrity Seth Rogen - Pineapple Express debuted to wildly raving reviews, I decided it was time to give him and his fellows a second chance. And now, I am not sure why I did. Or rather, I am not sure why I expected it to be better than some of the other mindless comedies Apatow and Rogen seem to be interested in creating of late.

Dale Denton, pot-smoking process server, visits his dealer, Saul, where he picks up the best weed of his life, a strain called Pineapple Express. Pineapple Express is exceptionally rare with Saul being the exclusive dealer of it and Dale his only customer so far. This becomes at all important when Dale, out to serve a guy named Ted, witnesses a murder and leaves a roach of the Pineapple Express outside the house after revealing his presence to Ted and his co-assassin. Ted, the grower of the weed, is able to identify it from a single drag and he traces it through his distributor Red to Saul and Dale.

So sets off the war between Ted and the Asian drug cartel with Dale and the stoned Saul caught in the middle. Fleeing from Ted, Dale and Saul rescue Dale's eighteen year-old girlfriend Angela (Dale is twenty-five) and her family from the crossfire only to end up running around stoned and afraid for almost two hours.

Okay, this is a stupid movie. This is a profoundly stupid movie, one of the dumbest movies to hit the big screen in a long time. Lacking the charm and likable characters of something like Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, Pineapple Express is agonizing in its set-up, disappointing for its long stretches of unwatchable, senseless violence that largely hinges on people being hit in the groin, and an ending that is so canned that it loses its camp appeal (which seems to be what it was going for). But even for a stupid movie with its semi-glorification of drug culture, this is a particularly inane and un-funny comedy. I'm not one for promoting drug use or the culture that surrounds it, my scathing review of Weeds: The Complete Second Season" (here!) is evidence enough of that. Pineapple Express almost gets away with appearing to be a movie ultimately recommending avoiding drug use, save that all of the important actions - including the massive gun battles - come while the protagonists are high. Dale and Saul are two of the highest functioning pot-heads on the planet.

But more than that, large chunks of Pineapple Express are not funny. First, this is a terribly repetitive feeling movie. There are very few jokes in it that seem fresh, new or even terribly funny. There are pretty much the standard stoner repetition jokes and humor that comes from the long, stoned pauses of one character talking to the other. There is the pretty standard stoner humor wherein one stoner praises another for something that seems brilliant and could only seem brilliant to someone who was high.

And when it is not being pretty much the most obvious kind of stoner humor one could conceive of, Pineapple Express is a violent action-adventure film that exaggerates the violence and absurdity of the intense events surrounding Saul and Dale. And in those moments, it becomes strangely difficult to watch the movie because it is hard to reconcile the daft, stoned characters from one scene to the action heroes of the next.

To be fair, in the middle third of the movie, Pineapple Express seems to hit its stride with the humor and action coming in good balance and providing sequences that are, at their best, entertaining. Yes, there are laughs to be had in this movie, but there aren't many and they are concentrated almost exclusively to the middle of the flick.

But many of the best parts to Pineapple Express are in the trailer and that is cut well to keep the pacing right. Sadly, there are 109 additional minutes of film that aren't in the theatrical trailer and they do not quite live up.

Honestly, I do know why I went to see Pineapple Express (other than a lingering ambition to do something wrong, like sneak into a movie - though this one was paid for [long story, involving three women who left in the first five minutes after one decided to noisily tell the other that she had been having sex with the other's boyfriend] - or see if a movie could give me any actual insight into the appeal of drugs); Seth Rogen, James Franco and Judd Apatow. All three worked together on Freaks And Geeks and my thought was that perhaps Franco, who is known now for much more serious and intense roles, was lured back to the Apatow/Rogen fold by a smart script. Fool me once . . .

James Franco plays drug dealer Saul with the same greasy-haired, aww-shucks I'm stoned, appeal that made his character of Daniel on Freaks And Geeks somewhat sympathetic or interesting. The problem is, the viewer has seen the performance from Franco before and while the role of Saul is substantially different from Daniel, much of the performance is not. Sure, Franco grabs his crotch a lot more than he ever did on Freaks And Geeks, but it is hard to sell that as an inspired performance.

Much of the movie falls to Seth Rogen to sell and he delivers. If there were ever a live-action version of The Muppets, Rogen is a shoo-in for Fonzie Bear and there are moments where he uses his comic timing in a way that it might be appropriate to call "genius." Indeed, when Dale realizes most of the problems he and Saul are in come from being high all the time, Rogen's delivery is inspired.

But is it largely too little, too late. By that point, the viewer is bored and waiting for the ending which does not come soon enough. Unless, of course, one is high and then . . . hey, it's all good.

On DVD, Pineapple Express comes as a two-disc special edition. The film is loaded up with a commentary track, a plethora of deleted scenes which do little to honestly improve the film and a bunch of featurettes that explain the making of the movie. These are pretty much the standard DVD extras for a film like this and they are almost enough to pull the film up into average territory. Almost.

I bumped the rating up because of a coin toss and the fact that I laughed and enjoyed the performances more than the other film I saw last night (sigh . . .). But truly, this one could easily be avoided by anyone without a joint and with taste.

For other works with Gary Cole, please check out my reviews of:
Psych - Season 3
The West Wing
Office Space


For other movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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