Say Anything: Pineapple Express
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 20, 2008
Only 13 days late this time
I was relieved when I first saw that a couple negative reviews for Pineapple Express were beginning to trickle in pre-release to balance out what were sure to be the dozens of glowing “Comedy of the summer” / “Apatow and company do it again” / “Best movie named after a Hawaiian weather phenomenon” type reviews for which the movie seemed destined. From the previews, I had gotten the sneaking suspicion that this was going to be one of those Borat type movies where if you didn’t think it was unfailingly hilarious, you may as well have branded yourself as a porn-hating, V8-drinking, McCain-voting Josh Groban fanatic in the eyes of many* (naturally I thought Borat was only sporadically funny, so). And basically, Pineapple Express lived up to my expectations–funny, but not that funny, and probably not deserving of placement in the upper echelon of stoner flicks. That’s the sum up, but obviously I gotta get a little more specific, so time to break out the bullet points…
- Seth Rogen: Is this really the guy we want representing our generation’s quarter-life loserdom? I mean, I guess he’s as good as anybody, but I feel like I like him less with each movie I see him in. I guess it’s more the redundancy of the roles he plays than anything he does himself. Let’s have him play a Wall Street broker or an eccentric NBA team owner or something before he plays another barely-employed, hard-luck schlub like Dale here again.
- Speaking of which, from the previews for Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (dear lord), it appears that Michael Cera has most thoroughly neglected to take my career advice. Mikey, I love ya, but when you inevitably stop looking 16 and your shy, perpetually-nervous schtick ceases to look adorable and starts to look kind of sad, don’t expect me to loan you money for your Yoo-Hoo habit.
- James Franco, on the other hand, looks like he finally got to play the role he’s been gearing for his entire career. He was always going to be more sellable as a loveable puppy dog than a brooding tough guy (watching him seething alone in his mansion while sipping a glass of red wine in the Spidey series never failed to bring the LOLs), and Saul, his super-stoner character here, is as perfect a Daniel DeSario 10 Years Later update as you could hope for. My personal favorite stoner moment in the movie: When Saul looks up at the night sky and just mutters “Space…” Best, most subtle filmic recreation of intoxication since that scene in Dazed and Confused where a drunk, woozy Cole Hauser gets up out of his chair, re-considers for a second, and plops back down again.
- The action scenes: kind of boring, no? I mean, that first fight between the two protagonists and Danny McBride’s mid-level dealer Red had its moments, but the rest seemed like director David Gordon Green couldn’t choose a tone between basic action satire, fights between dudes who have never been in a fight before realism, and straight-up slapstick. Between this and the somewhat overrated Hot Fuzz, I guess I just prefer action movies with either clever, Bruce Willis-style quipping or straight-faced, Arnie-style OTTness than actual attempts at action / comedy hybrids.
- Gary Cole and Rosie Perez: What a waste. Much love I have for both, but neither got a character worth a damn to work with. Same goes for Daryl from The Office (much better used in his Knocked Up cameo) and Ray Liotta’s brother in Goodfellas (much better used as the creepy guy in Superbad). Actually, aside from the admittedly pretty great Danny McBride (fine, I’ll torrent The Foot Fist Way or something), the only one of the movie’s That Guy-stacked cast actually given a half-decent role is Bill Hader, in the movie’s solid First-Stoner-in-History flashback opening. Bummer.
- The least funny recurring element of the movie: Saul and Dale’s constant unintentional (OR IS IT?!?!) homoeroticism. Every Apatow outing (no pun intended, seriously) has at least a little bit of this, but nothing’ll make you nostalgic for Rogen and Paul Rudd’s arguably classic “You know how I know you’re gay?” bantering in 40 Year-Old Virgin like Rogen and Franco unconsciously miming gay sex while trying to escape captivity. As the friend I saw it with succinctly put it, “We get it. Dudes are kinda gay.”
- The other least funny recurring element of the movie: All the Asians cursing and saying wacky Caucasian shit in subtitled foreign languages. I mean…really?
- Movie gets mostly positive tallies for the soundtrack–use of BBD’s “Poison” and Bone Thugs’ “Tha Crossroads” not particularly inspired, but it’s still “Poison” and “Tha Crossroads,” and it’s hard to find too much fault with any movie that starts rolling (in both ways) with “Electric Avenue.” Bonus points of course as well for the Huey Lewis theme song over the closing credits. Only real fault to find here is that “Paper Planes”–currently the #5 song in the nation thanks to the exposure of being used in PE’s previews–is nowhere to be found in the actual movie. Disappointing, considering I’m finally able to stand the song again.
- Props to the movie’s final scene, which strikes the “Uhhh did all that stuff really just happen? Huh, cool” vibe that I kind of wished the movie had done a better job of keeping the entire time. Extra points for the fakeout of Dale becoming a successful radio DJ, of no one really learning any sort of meaningful lesson, and for the movie just kind of forgetting about female lead Amber Heard, whose presence in the movie was pointless even by Apatow buddy movie standards.
- Considering how much Rogen and Apatow have cited his True Romance character as inspiration for the movie, anyone else think the movie was badly missing a Brad Pitt walk-on?
I dunno. I feel like Pineapple Express tries to be all things to all stoners, but it doesn’t match the situational hilarity of Harold & Kumar, the gleeful absurdism of Dude, Where’s My Car?, the hazy brilliance of The Big Lebowski or the infectious enthusiasm of Half-Baked. I don’t even see it becoming much of a basic-cable classic, unless Comedy Central does a particularly inspired job with the censoring. It’s probably still be one of the better Summer comedy options out there, but if Apatow is the John Hughes of the 00s, then he’s moving out of Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink territory and solidly towards the Some Kind of Wonderful / Uncle Buck phase of his career.