Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pineapple Express

When I first heard about this Seth Rogen project (I really only knew the title and that it was a Seth Rogen project), I was like "eh." Then I heard the premise about a stoner and his dealer on the run from a drug lord and again I was "eh." Then I saw the trailer with Rogen and James Franco frantically bumbling around an apartment with Rogen shouting, "We need snacks!" and I thought, "This will be hysterical!" Certainly most of the reviewers thought it was uproariously funny.

I just came from seeing it and my reaction is "eh."

Don't get me wrong, Pineapple Express definitely has its moments, the problem is that they aren't quite enough of them. The film gets off to a sluggish start as it establishes Rogen's character of Dale Denton: a process server and talk radio fanatic who dates a high school senior and spends as much time getting stoned as possible. The movie picks up a bit when we meet Saul (played with slovenly sweetness by James Franco), a good-natured purveyor of pot who loves old sitcoms and his old bubbie. Franco, with his woozy grin and stuporous naivete, nearly steals the show.

That is, however, until we meet Red. Played with ridiculously deadpan glee by Danny McBride, the character ups the ante for ludicrously funny. He's the Energizer Bunny of the movie and sadly, there's not enough of him. Whether it's Dale and Saul frantically flailing around in a forest, or Dale, Saul and Red in the midst of pummeling each other with Dustbusters and glass bongs, or a whacked out car chase through a Sears parking lot, the movie worked best for me when it was MOVING. There's a slight running gag where druglord Ted Jones (Gary Cole in evil bastard mode once again...) and crooked cop Carol (Rosie Perez) think Dale must be some super assassin instead of the stumbling stoner that he is in reality that could have been amusing had it been more developed.

But what really was left underdeveloped was the "buddy" portion of this stoner-action-buddy comedy. Although Rogen has said the relationship between Dale and Saul is the most important part of the movie, I wasn't quite feeling the connection. There were moments: a montage of playfulness in the forest, a rambling heart-to-heart smoking dope up in a tree, Saul gingerly trying to piece back together Dale's mangled ear; and certainly Franco conveyed a puppy dog likeability as he tried to be pals with Dale. But I felt like Rogen didn't deliver the emotional goods when he professed that the two were BF...FF, "best fucking friends forever!" Oh, and for the critics claiming homoerotic subtext: the scene where Saul is rubbing his duck-taped wrists bound back his back against Dale's belt buckle is played entirely for laughs and anyone who's seen Rogen in a pair of BVDs ain't feeling erotic--homo or otherwise!

While Pineapple Express was quite the non-stop laugh riot I expected it to be (Let's see how Tropic Thunder does next week...), it had its high points: Franco's sensitive stoner, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson (aka Darryl from The Office) as a droll but dim-witted hitman and a hell of a ridiculous knock-down, drag-out ending featuring more guns, violence and explosions than Scorcese's The Departed (along with some purple nurples and a killer Dae Woo) and the film's best line in Korean and subtitled in English: "Prepare to suck the cock of karma!"

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