Friday, September 26, 2008


David Gordon Green, the indie auteur of such films such as GEORGE WASHINGTON, ALL THE REAL GIRLS, UNDERTOW, and SNOW ANGELS, was just about the last person I’d ever expect to get the directing job on a stoner-action-comedy like PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (****). His style, thus far, has been more Terrence Malick than Judd Apatow (who produced PINEAPPLE EXPRESS). But almost to prove a point that he can play in the big leagues of studio financed product, Green steps out of his comfort zone and has crafted, along with screenwriters Seth Rogen (who also stars) and Evan Goldberg, the best stoner movie I’ve ever seen. Mixing simple yet extremely effective pot humor with the sensibilities of John Woo’s ultra-violent action-movie period of THE KILLER and HARD-BOILED, Green mixes genres and crafts a hilarious buddy comedy that will only get better and better upon repeated viewing.

The set-up is easy-bake. Rogen, playing a weed-loving process server named Dale Denton, stops over at his dealer’s apartment to grab some ganja. His dealer, Saul Silver (the priceless James Franco, in a role that if there was a God, would nab him a supporting actor nomination), has the best stuff in town: Pineapple Express. After getting a new stash, Dale heads over to serve someone with their papers, only this someone, happens to be the city’s main importer of the fabulous mary-jane. What Dale also doesn’t expect to see is this guy, Ted Jones (a funny as always Gary Cole), shoot a rival in the back of the head in the living room of his glass-walled house. Fleeing the scene, but not before throwing his roach of Pineapple Express out the window, Dale high-tails it back to Saul’s to tell him what he just saw. Ted see’s Dale trying to escape, heads out to the street, sniffs the roach, and because Saul is the only one that he’s hooked up with the Pineapple, he knows immediately where to start looking. The film speeds along with Dale and Saul on the run from Ted and his goons, getting stoned every chance they get, and finally culminating in a wonderfully graphic shoot-out that would make Woo and Michael Bay blush.

What’s so fun and unique about PINEAPPLE EXPRESS is the blending of genres. The first portion of the film is an easy-going stoner comedy, with Franco’s Saul tossing out one incredible one-liner after another. Franco seems baked in this film, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was. Rogen, who can do no wrong at this point, plays the guy we’ve come to love from films such as KNOCKED UP and THE FORTY YEAR OLD VIRGIN. PINEAPPLE EXPRESS is, at its heart, a bromance of a film; Dale and Saul love each other, and like any lovers, they have some fun, they bicker, and then they get back together. Whether it’s the two of them blowing clouds of smoke onto unsuspecting caterpillars or wielding double shotguns and blowing people away, they are a duo that can’t be separated. A great supporting cast is also along for the ride, including Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Rosie Perez, Nora Dunn, Ed Begley Jr., and the sexy Amber Heard. And when the action-fireworks take place during the film’s final and extremely bloody act, you’re all the more invested in the characters because of the time spent with them watching their characters evolve. I am not saying that PINEAPPLE EXPRESS is high art, or even low art for that matter. It has a crude, jocular style at times, and Green, while no slouch, isn’t a shooter with a Tony Scott eye quite yet. But what he does is meld together two very different types of movies into one genuinely entertaining whole. With this film and SNOW ANGELS, which was released in early 2008, there’s a chance that Green will make two appearances on my Top 10 of the year list.


Wayne said...

I absolutely hate to say this, but this movie left me totally cold, and I tend to flock to stone-coms like catnip. The truly funny parts of the film are in the trailer. Yes, Franco was 100% amazing, but I'm getting very tired of this worn arrested development theme of ApatowCo's. The action movie parts were poorly staged, and not very exciting, which left me to marvel at the clever trick of it all, which wasn't entirely clever to me (in practice anyway). Plus, please explain to me the point of the high school aged girlfriend. Outside of a way to get Rogen in a room with Ed Begley Jr. to be sworn at, I can't locate one. I would much rather have seen a climax of the film grow organically out of this (forgive me) half-baked subplot, than the completely inorganic action movie stuff.

Actionman said...

Again, the action wasn't Ridley/Tony Scott calibre, but for what it was, I foung it to be quite entertaining.

The subplot with Amber Heard and Ed Begley Jr. playing her dad could've been cut, but then you would have a lost yet another funny scene. By the time that Rogen finally gets to their house, he's so stoned-out from all the blazing that it's an almost surreal moment for him. And...Amber is just f'ing it didn't bother me really.

The action stuff wasn't organic? I think it was definitley part of the film as a whole. Everything lead up to that shoot-out considering all that had come before.

I guess I was most impressed with Green's ability to jump into the director's chair of a film that he had no previous reason to be directing based on his smaller, much more personal work. It will be very interesting to see what his next project is, and where he goes from here.

Wayne said...

I'm definitely a fan of Green, and I think that he did well for himself here given that (in my humble minority opinion, of course) he was working with a very weak script.

To explain further, the action sequences played as if Rogen and Goldberg had no other cards up their sleeve, they took a couple of bong rips, and then went "hey, dude, wouldn't it be sick if it just turns into Die Hard 2 all of a sudden?" I haven't felt like the filmmakers were having more fun than the audience since "Ocean's 12", but that could have just been my (very bored) screening.

I think I would have much rather seen more with the Amber Heard subplot, since they bothered to write it and it's such a potential landmine of cringe-worthy comedy that could have weaved itself quite well in with the main plot.

I think I'm growing tired of the Apatow brand. His stand-up comedy film can't get here fast enough. Seems like a nice thematic change of pace....maybe.