I Love You, Too, Man. Now Shut the Fuck Up.
Pineapple Express / Dustin Rowles
Film Reviews | August 8, 2008 | Comments ()
First, the good news: If you blaze up before watching The Pineapple Express, you’re probably going to think that it’s one of the funniest movies of the year. But then again, I was baked to the tits when I watched The Legend of Bagger Vance and I bawled like a little bitch. All I’m saying is: A little cannabis goes a long way toward dulling your critical faculties. And a forewarning: If you do decide to see Pineapple Express while you’re riding Mary Jane, don’t let that bitch buck off of you before the run time endeth; make sure you build up enough of a buzz to get you through two hours because if you come out of your fog during the last 45 minutes, you’re going to wonder what the fuck you were laughing for the last hour. My advice: Take a Scooby snack with you to ensure you’re able to maintain your toast.
For the sober among you, I have less fortunate news: The Pineapple Express lives up to its hype about as well the prospect of ridding yourself of that pesky virginity. Oh, it’s a fun idea all right, until that goddamn condom kills your lumber, you miss the hole, and you wind up nosebleeding all over your girlfriend’s face. (Also, you probably should’ve checked with your lady friend about her allergies before you used that spray-on deodorant to keep your junk smelling fresh.) You may even leave the experience thinking you enjoyed it, until you start to review the proceedings and the harsh reality sets in: You were about as suave as a fat guy chasing a chili-dog through a china shop and you just left your girlfriend with an infected labia. Nice job!
I read an interview somewhere earlier this week where Seth Rogen was talking about the difference between a stoner comedy, and comedies with stoners, saying Pineapple Express fell into the latter category. He was probably high when he said it. Watching the movie literally is akin to being the only sober guy in a room full of potheads. Sure, the second-hand smoke may keep you amused for a few minutes, but after awhile, you’re like, “Dude. I know, I love you, too, man. Yeah. Sure, we’re best friends, but I gotta go, OK? OK, brother. I’ll give you a hug, but seriously, I need to get the fuck outta here.” While Step Brothers was probably the product of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, a couple of 40 year old guys, knocking back a few and then purging their thoughts onto the page, Pineapple Express similarly is the product of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg tossing around ideas in-between tokes. And the fact that they wrote it several years ago shows: It’s one incredibly juvenile film, and may have actually worked better if the cast weren’t made up of a bunch of guys way too goddamn old to be acting like a group of giggly dipshits. The comparisons to Superbad, written around the same time as Pineapple are apropos, at least to a point: Where Superbad at least had some heart, Pineapple Express has absolutely no soul. It really is just another blathering pothead comedy, and to be honest, I liked the first Harold and Kumar better.
All of this is not to say that the movie didn’t have its moments; compared to the standard studio comedy, Pineapple Express is fucking Citizen Kane, if Charles Foster Kane were a stoner and Rosebud was some of the finest weed on the West coast. It follows Dale Denton (Seth Rogen), a 25-year-old process server who smokes up in his car, listens to a lot of talk radio, and dates a senior. In high school. His hook-up is Saul (James Franco), a low-level drug dealer who basically sits around his house, smokes cheeba, and giggles at reruns of “227.” And if you’ve been around stoners a lot, or are one yourself, the exchanges between Dale and Saul in the first half hour of the movie ring true. They talk about banal shit and somehow make it amusing; they talk about how awesome the other guy is; and they make a lot of uncomfortably inappropriate statements. But the wheels fall off as soon as they take the movie outside of Saul’s apartment. See, Dale, about to serve a subpoena on Ted Jones (Gary Cole) — the high-level dope slinger — witnesses Ted and a lady cop (Rosie Perez) murder an Asian guy, and Dale unwittingly gets himself involved in a turf war between the Asians and Ted Jones. In his haste to get the hell out of there, Dale tosses a roach on the street, Ted picks it up, recognizes the brand (Pineapple Express) and eventually traces it back to Saul, through the middle man Red (Danny McBride). A couple of hitmen (Craig Robinson from “The Office” and Kevin Corrigan from “Grounded for Life”) get involved, and the rest of the movie devolves into a bunch of stoners with guns chasing down a bunch of stoners without guns.
Granted, there are a lot of highlights in Pineapple Express. For one, James Franco fucking kills - he plays the hell out of his part, and he manages to stretch the shelf-life of a slacker pot dealer well past its expiration date. I also thought that Danny McBride, as the midlevel dealer, stole most of the scenes he was in — there’s a fight sequence between Red, Saul, and Dale in Red’s apartment that, alone, makes the movie worth seeing. David Gordon Green, who directed the elegiac All the Real Girls and the haunting Snow Angels does as best he can with the material — he gives Pineapple Express a slight indie aesthetic and makes the film a lot better than it has any right to be, at least until the last half hour, when it all goes to hell.
The biggest problem with Pineapple Express, as much as it pains me to say so, is not just the script, but Seth Rogen. I am, or at least I was, an unabashed Rogen fan, and he is definitely a guy it’d be fun to smoke a bowl with. But there’s only so much of the guy I can cope with. He’s great in smaller roles (Superbad) or as part of an ensemble comedy (Knocked Up), but his brand of deep-throat stonerism grows staler than a picnic sandwich left out in the sun. I’m not convinced it’s a shtick, either; I think he is that guy he plays in films, which doesn’t bode well at all for him taking on the role of the Green Hornet. Unfortunately, I think we may be looking at the next Will Ferrell.
And another thing about Pineapple Express: That gay shit gets old. Quick. I am not opposed to, nor am I offended by homoerotic humor, but Jesus: Use it sparingly. If you’ve seen Superbad, you know the sleeping bag scene between Jonah Hill and Michael Cera — that “I love you, man, and I wanna scream it from the rooftops” scene? Yeah: Well, picture that between two grown men, take it to the next level (“I wanna be inside of you, Holmes”), and add about 45 minutes to it, and you’ve got roughly half of Pineapple Express.. You may laugh at it a few times, but after a while, it gets creepy, and it completely loses its effectiveness. There’s nothing wrong with a little gay subtext, but Pineapple Express barely stops short of Seth Rogen bending James Franco over a chair and bursting a few anal capillaries. And believe you me, gay or straight, nobody wants to think about that.
But lookit: There’s a large group of folks, myself included, that’d probably see Pineapple Express regardless of the reviews they read. Rogen and Apatow, et. al., have a fairly devoted, though diminishing built-in audience, at least with their bigger comedies (and if the sold-out shows at the ArcLight last night were any indication, this movie is going to do well). And for those people, the best thing I can probably do is to simply temper the hype: If you’re not expecting it to be the decade’s best stoner comedy, you might be pleasantly surprised. But if you go in thinking you’re about to see a movie that’s going to slap your ass and leave red handprints of humor all over it, as I did, you’re going to be majorly disappointed. It’s not Knocked Up, it’s not Superbad, and it’s not even Forgetting Sarah Marshall. But what it is, is a movie a helluva lot better than Step Brothers or You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. Still, if you’ve got a ounce lying around, you’d be wise to smoke that shit up on the way to theater.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife and son in Portland, Maine. Please leave a comment or send an email.