Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pineapple Express (2008)

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Stoners rejoice: the stoner film genre has made a triumphant return with Pineapple Express, the brainchild of Superbad writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The central theme of Pineapple Express is, of course, marijuana, but unlike many recent so-called weed movies, the underlying premise and surprisingly detailed plot make the film enjoyable for all audiences. Starring Rogen and James Franco as a customer (Dale Denton) and drug dealer (Saul Silver), respectively, the film follows the two as they try to escape from a drug dealer who Denton witnessed committing murder. When Denton scrambles to escape from the murder scene, he drops a joint containing the potent marijuana strain Pineapple Express, which Ted Jones, the murderer, finds and tracks to Saul Silver. Chaos ensues as the two full-fledged stoners both light up joints and car tires in an attempt to not get whacked. Rogen proves yet again that he belongs in center stage, and despite his chubby, goofy appearance, he can carry a comedy on his broad shoulders. Franco, known by many more for his looks than talent, truly avoids type-casting by playing a lazy pot dealer, a character even more stoned than Rogen. Together, they make a legendary tag-team that will go down in stoner lore. Pineapple Express follows in the footsteps of other Judd Apatow classics by complementing a great premise and hilarious leads with an extremely talented supporting cast. Rosie Perez, who seemingly disappeared after White Men Can't Jump, returns as a crooked cop with a knack for violence in what may be the best role of her career. Gary Cole, like his role as Lumbergh in Office Space, brings a twisted element to Ted Jones which works wonders when he is on the screen with Perez. And Danny McBride, as Red, turns in the most notable supporting performance as he has some of the film's most memorable lines and is nearly killed time and time again. Apatow recruited little known David Gordon Green to direct, and Green delivers a sharp, stylish film that stays true to a brilliantly written script. Rogen and Goldberg crafted plenty of jokes and dialogue that will resonate with the stoner culture, and there are plenty of bizarre situations characteristic of Apatow films (Denton's high school girlfriend), but what separates Pineapple Express from Dude, Where's My Car and Half Baked is the legitimate crime/thriller storyline. Many will be surprised by how well the action scenes are executed, with shrewd detail such as characters firing guns as if they never have touched one before. And even the most toasted in the audience will snap out of their daze when they see the surprising level of violence and gore. The soundtrack frames each scene perfectly, and a black-and-white prologue featuring Bill Hader sets the tone for the film. There are definitely jokes that will go over some of the audience's head, and some dialogue is so dumbed down for those who have lost some brain cells to the wacky weed that those who abstain may not be impressed, but there is enough intelligence and creativity here to prevent any comparisons to How High. Pineapple Express is clearly a descendant of the Cheech and Chong lineage of buddy capers and marijuana glorification, but the film clearly shows inheritance from Tarantino as well, and its authenticity and originality has re-lit the cherry of the stoner film.

Good for: potheads, Apatow fans

Bad for: straight-edgers

The Gallery
The Economist: * * * *
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The Film Maker: * * * *
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