Movie Review: Pineapple Express
By Matthew Huntley
August 18, 2008
I must say, I'm kind of surprised. Pineapple Express had such a funny and promising trailer that to see the final movie be this long and ineffectual is a bit of a shock. I try not to let trailers influence my opinion, but placing the trailer for Pineapple Express alongside the feature illustrates the latter's problems - it's slow, un-amusing and exhausting. Whereas the preview, rhythmically paced and energetic, made me excited with anticipation, the movie disappointed and bored me. Clearly, they weren't cut by the same editor.
In less than two weeks, this is the second irreverent comedy to come out of the omnipresent Apatow factory, the other one being Step Brothers. And like the Will Ferrell comedy, Pineapple Express lacks a focus and structure, at least enough of one to keep us on-board its crazy train. It prides itself on its characters sitting around rambling about their jobs, their goofy dreams, their love for one another, their deconstruction of pop culture - you know, typical Apatow stuff. Normally, I love natural-sounding dialogue like this, but this time it's uninteresting. If characters are going to talk, we should want to listen.
The plot follows a process server named Dale Denton (Seth Rogen), who witnesses a murder at the hands of a drug lord named Ted Jones (Gary Cole) and a crooked female cop (Rosie Perez). At the time of the murder, Dale is smoking a joint of Pineapple Express, the "rarest marijuana in the world." He flees the scene but leaves the pot behind, which Ted traces back to Saul (James Franco), Dale's spaced out dealer.
Ted sends a pair of incompetent thugs (Kevin Corrigan and Craig Robinson) to kill Dale and Saul, who make a run for it and set out on a misguided adventure. In less than 24 hours, the two of them will sleep and play in the woods; wrestle Saul's friend and drug provider, Red (Danny McBride); sell marijuana to junior high school students; flee in a car chase; and engage in a no holds barred battle in the same barn where marijuana was declared illegal by the United States Army.
The whole movie is intentionally wacky, screwballish and over-the-top, which should come as no surprise since Pineapple Express was written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, from a story by Rogen, Goldberg and Judd Apatow. These are "the same guys who brought you Superbad," a tagline that is becoming overused in movie ads. Sure, Superbad was good, as were The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Talladega Nights, but studios should stop referencing other Apatow flicks already! It's getting old.
Rogen and Goldberg's screenplay probably read well on paper, but unlike Superbad, another buddy comedy where two friends fall into a series of misadventures, the words aren't manifested into anything memorable. Rather, what the entire movie feels like is a compilation of deleted scenes, and if there are no deleted scenes on the DVD or Blu-ray, I will be very surprised.
Director David Gordon Green (the filmmaker behind the low-profile yet highly revered indie films George Washington and Undertow) doesn't know when to cut. Green is a director who likes to examine, ponder and take his time, and that's a fine strategy, but this material isn't interesting enough. Everybody who made this movie seems to be so in love with the tittle-tattle dialogue they think it could go on forever. It's like Green told his actors he was just going to leave the camera running and said, "Okay, guys, just talk. You know the gist of the scene. Just talk." That "talk," unfortunately, becomes distracting and I grew impatient with it. About halfway through, the movie simply lost me. It's a 100 minute movie stretched out to 113.
The laughs are also few and far between. The situations are too chaotic and without limit, while some of them become awkward. For example, there's a scene when Dale visits his girlfriend (Amber Heard) and her parents (Ed Begley, Jr. and Nora Dunn), with whom he's supposed to be meeting and having dinner, but the events that play out get too bizarre and weird, and not in a funny way.
I will say the main characters are likable, especially Saul (Franco makes a great stoner), but I would have liked them more if I spent less time with them. Rogen more or less plays the same goofy, teddy-bear type role, but it's getting to the point where we want him to branch off and try different material. I also admired the violence, which isn't compromised and goes full throttle in the end, even though much of it is gratuitous (the movie deserves its R rating).
But for a movie with so much going on, there's little to take away. It's not that Pineapple Express is unpleasant or offensive; it's simply a movie that doesn't know when enough is enough. I'll forget about it in a week, maybe less. After a while, when you come across someone who keeps rambling on and on, you simply tune them out, which is what I found myself doing during this feature.