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Overall Rating
3.68

Awesome: 18.06%
Worth A Look44.44%
Average: 29.17%
Pretty Bad: 4.17%
Total Crap: 4.17%

7 reviews, 30 user ratings


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Pineapple Express
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by Peter Sobczynski

"And The Grass Will Pay No Mind"
4 stars

Although the sum total of my personal cannabis-related experiences is so low that they could be counted on Jerry Garcia’s right hand and still leave enough digits remaining to flash a Nixonian victory sign (a description that, now that I look at it, makes it sound as though I am either coming from or going to a Sixties revival party), I have seen more than my fair share of stoner comedies over the years and can clearly and lucidly explain why so few of them are actually worth watching. The problem with most of these films--I’m thinking of junk like “Half-Baked,” “How High,” the “Harold & Kumar” films and pretty much every Cheech &/or Chong epic made after the admittedly hysterical “Up in Smoke”--is that they seem to think that the mere idea of people getting stoned is so inherently amusing that they don’t need supply anything else--the assumption presumably being that if you watch people stumbling about while giggling helplessly long enough, you will eventually begin giggling right along with them, especially if you are currently in a similar state of mind. There have been some absolutely hilarious stoner comedies over the years as well--my picks would include “Dazed and Confused,” “The Big Lebowski” and “Wonder Boys”--but in each of those cases, the filmmakers took the time to create characters and situations that were funny and interesting enough so that even if all the drug content were to suddenly disappear, the films would still be worth watching. Happily, the eagerly awaited comedy “Pineapple Express,” the latest product from the Judd Apatow factory, is a comedy that may feature two unrepentant stoners at its center but there is much more to it than simply a pair of cretins puffing away a mile a minute while struggling to form a single coherent sentence between them. While it may not quite reach the heights of either those previously cited classics or the intense anticipation that the film has engendered since the mammoth success of “Superbad,” the previous hit from co-writers Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg, it is still a raucously funny action-comedy that is easily one of the funnier films to emerge in 2008.

The film stars Rogen as Dale Denton, a schlub in his mid-20’s with a dead-end job as a process server, a relationship with inexplicably adoring high school goddess Angie (Amber Heard) that he can clearly see is doomed the minute that she goes off to college and meets other guys and absolutely none of the ambition required to make any of the serious lifestyle changes that he clearly needs. In fact, the only thing that seems to drive him at all is his marijuana obsession and these leads him to make frequent visits to Saul Silver (James Franco), his pot dealer and, based on all available evidence, the closest thing that he has to a male friend. Saul certainly thinks of himself as Dale’s friend and during one transaction, he goes so far as to hook him up with some Pineapple Express, an especially potent strain of dope that is so rare that he is currently the only person in town selling it. Dales buys some, drives off to light up but has the misfortune to select a location that winds up providing him with an unwitting front-row seat for a brutal murder committed by a pair of strangers. He has the even greater misfortune to cause enough noise while trying to ditch his joint in the street and speed away to attract the attention of the two killers. Then to top things off in the misfortune department, it turns out that one of the killers is nefarious local drug lord Ted Jones(Gary Cole), a man with the ability to recognize the rarity of the discarded roach and trace it back to its source and the other is a corrupt cop (Rosie Perez) who is helping him eliminate his underworld competition.

Realizing that it is only a matter of time before the Pineapple Express is traced back to them, Dale and Saul flee to the woods in order to hide out and destroy their cell phones in an effort to escape detection, a couple of tasks that prove to be almost impossible to pull off thanks to their stoned demeanors. Eventually they make their way back into town to look up Saul’s connection, Red (Danny McBride), to find out if anyone has been asking about who might be going around with the Pineapple Express. Red wants to help them--well, maybe he wants to help Saul more than Dale--but he really, really wants to stay alive even more and so by the time they get there, he has already sold them both out to a couple of Ted’s hit men (Kevin Corrigan and Craig Robinson). Amazingly, however, Dale and Saul continually manage to escape the clutches of Ted and his minions with such inexplicable ease that he becomes convinced that Dale is actually a hit man hired by a rival drug lord to wipe him out in retaliation. As a result, while simply struggling to keep themselves from getting arrested or killed, Dale and Saul find themselves in the middle of a high-speed car chase, a gun battle between drug gangs to rival the one at the climax of “Scarface” and, perhaps most terrifying of all, a visit to Angie’s house that leads to what is easily the single weirdest sequence involving a guy meeting his beloved’s parents (Ed Begley Jr. and Nora Dunn) since Ben Stiller tried to explain to Robert De Niro about how he used to milk his cat.

As you can tell, “Pineapple Express” is a decidedly rambunctious comedy that is unashamedly loud, crude and filled to the brim with bullets and bongs. Therefore, it may come as a surprise to some of you to discover that the film was directed by David Gordon Green, the defiantly iconoclastic indie director whose first four films (2000’s “George Washington,” 2002’s “All The Real Girls,” 2004’s “Undertow” and this spring’s “Snow Angels”) have made him one of the most fascinating new American filmmakers to emerge so far this decade. Although it may seem odd that someone with a resume like that, not to mention someone whose films have always leaned more towards the art-house likes of Terrence Malick than the multiplex excesses of hacks like Michael Bay and Tony Scott, would even consider to do something as broad and unapologetically commercial as this film, it turns out that Green has always had a taste for wildly excessive action-comedy spectacles as well as for more refined fare. (When I interviewed him a few years ago, he claimed without a hint of irony that his two favorite films of 2003 were Gus van Sant’s extra-arty “Gerry” and Michael Bay’s extra-crappy “Bad Boys 2.”) And as it turns out, he has a genuine flair for such blatantly broad material that one might not have gleaned based on his previous efforts. He doesn’t condescend to the material in any way or treat it in an ironic manner that suggests that he is stepping away from the material in order to show the hipsters in the audience that he knows that he is smarter than the story that he is telling. Instead, it tackles the material in the kind of straightforward manner that puts you in the mind of such action-comedy classic of the 70’s and 80’s like “Freebie and the Bean” or “The Blues Brothers” without ever trying to copy their styles. And while the resulting film is obviously the least personal thing that Green has ever done, he does manage to work in a few elements here and there that are reminiscent of his previous films--there are a couple of brief lyrical montages that feel straight out of “George Washington” he takes the time to give us several completely character-driven scenes that give even the bad guys a chance to show that they are ordinary people after all and the final scene, in which several characters sit in a diner and discuss what has happened to them, ends things on a wholly unexpected moment of grace that is strangely effective and appealing. While I doubt that the all-but-inevitable success of this film will mean that Green will abandon his more personal work forever, it does suggest that, like Steven Soderbergh, that he has the rare ability to toggle back and forth between big-studio projects and smaller, quirkier fare without losing the qualities that made his films so unique in the first place.

That said, I don’t want to make “Pineapple Express” sound like a bizarre experiment that will only be of interest to hard-core auteurists--the film really succeeds because it is just flat-out hilarious from start to finish To spoil the inspired jokes that Rogen & Goldberg have come up with would be horribly unfair to them and their film, so I will only cite one that has been seen endlessly in the trailers and commercials--the bit in which Saul discovers at the worst possible time that it is a lot more difficult to kick out a windshield than a lifetime’s worth of cop shows has otherwise indicated is a classic bit of slapstick comedy that still manages to work no matter how many times you have seen the ads. What I can talk about in a little more detail is another key aspect to the film’s success--the inspired comedic pairing of Seth Rogen and James Franco as Dale and Saul. Of course, we know about Rogen’s comedy chops thanks to last summer’s one-two punch of “Knocked Up’ and “Superbad” and he doesn’t disappoint here with another amusing portrait of an especially arrested adolescent forced to finally grow up a little due to a chain of extraordinary circumstances. However, those who know Franco only from his brooding performances in the “Spider-Man” film and his award-winning work as James Dean in a cable movie from a few years back (not to mention such lesser junk as “Annapolis” or “Flyboys”) may be surprised to see just how deft of a comedian he can be when given the chance to cut loose as he does here. Instead of just giving us a walking set of dying brain cells, he makes Saul into a character who has genuine feelings and emotions that no amount of pot can suppress and which have a tendency to emerge in wholly unexpected ways. (His pleading insistence for Dale to stay with him early on in the story when all Dale wants to do is get out and get toasted is so disarmingly sincere that it adds an odd layer of pathos to an otherwise hilarious scene). And since I pasted Danny McBride earlier this summer for his singularly annoying performance in “The Foot Fist Way,” I suppose I should take a moment to praise him for his work here as Red, the middleman who wants to be a nice guy but is too obsessed with saving his own surprisingly resilient skin to pull it off--if you ever wondered what Daffy Duck might be like if his personality was transferred into the body of a 30-ish dope dealer, this is your big chance at last.

As far as I can see, “Pineapple Express” has only three minor things working against it--one that was perhaps unavoidable (as funny as it is, it never quite manages to top “Superbad” in terms of sheer hilarity), one minor one that could have been avoided (the soundtrack unfortunately doesn’t include “Paper Planes,” the incredible M.I.A. track that fuels the trailers and commercials) and a more-than-minor one that should have been avoided (the fact that, unlike previous Apatow productions, the women here aren’t given much to do, a real shame when you have access to a firecracker like Rosie Perez and inexplicably refuses to light her up). And yet, the stuff in the film that does work does so wonderfully and hilariously that even those flaws wind up fading into the background. In other words, “Pineapple Express” is that singular rarity--a stoner film that actually lives up to all the buzz, both in the press and in the audience.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17097&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/06/08 14:00:00
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User Comments

6/30/14 Edler Loved it!! Very original 5 stars
5/28/12 Jeff Wilder Hilarious if a tad overlong. 4 stars
5/02/12 Chimy Changa funniest fuckin movie ever 5 stars
4/13/12 Monday Morning Hey blah blah, stay in your own crappy country then. Good flick! 4 stars
8/27/10 David M That was a great movie, most of you guys are full of crap 5 stars
2/24/10 Peter North Franco was great. Rogen wouldnt shut up. 40 min too long. sucked. 2 stars
8/13/09 Daniel Kelly Enjoyed it alot in the theater, felt a bit flat away from an audience on DVD. 4 stars
5/21/09 MP Bartley 10 minutes too long, but very funny nonetheless. Franco is brilliant. 4 stars
3/03/09 Mark Funniest movie that I've seen all year. 5 stars
2/23/09 jon g couldnt watch it because I kept falling asleep. 1 stars
2/14/09 Tony Ridiculous reaches new levels of absurdity. 3 stars
1/18/09 blah blah typical unfunny american shit 1 stars
1/15/09 DiNuoscio loved the movie!! HILARIOUS..Franco at his best! 5 stars
1/05/09 Matt C. hilarious. franco is the most memorable. 5 stars
12/19/08 Lee wwwaaaaaaaayyyyy too much shouting for no reason, Made me bored 2 stars
11/09/08 Anne Siebenhoven Simply a gift that keeps on givimg 5 stars
8/24/08 Quigley Pretty good despite the vulgarity. Franco and Rogen make a great team. 4 stars
8/20/08 Brian Mckay It's no Harold and Kumar, but plenty of laughs. Sloppy script, though, and ending fizzles. 4 stars
8/17/08 Margeaux Lots of laughs! 4 stars
8/14/08 jessica brilliant1 a masterpiece! had to hold tears back! 4 stars
8/12/08 Sully First half good stoner comedy second half LAME LAME LAME. Save your money, go buy an oz. 2 stars
8/12/08 plstic so funny, yep..what a writer...talented...i hope he keeps them coming 5 stars
8/11/08 George Barksdale Didn't think I would like it but was very good 5 stars
8/10/08 Samantha Pruitt it was trying to be different and did a really good job of it! hilarious and quotable! 5 stars
8/10/08 Susan another stoner movie from apatow, some funny parts but really out there and stretching 3 stars
8/10/08 crltn a sophisticated, up to date, hilarious, right on Chech and Chong...love it 5 stars
8/09/08 Tom Paul Reeves i agree with zimmerman 1 stars
8/07/08 jcjs33 wonderful fun romp, hilarious, James Franco is great 5 stars
8/06/08 Eloise Carlson It was funny at times, but not what I expected. 3 stars
8/06/08 E K Zimmerman I loved this movie a great deal more than I thought I would, and highly recommend it. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  06-Aug-2008 (R)
  DVD: 06-Jan-2009

UK
  N/A

Australia
  07-Aug-2008
  DVD: 06-Jan-2009




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