Posted on Thursday, August 7th, 2008 by Hunter Stephenson
Seth Rogen just got a free pass. I mean, a 9.5, CHUD? Really? FirstShowing declares Pineapple Express “breaks new ground” and implies it’s the “best stoner comedy ever made.” I’m not really sure what movies one must zoom past to make the best stoner comedy of all time. Is The Big Lebowski king? Garnering this superlative is sort of like being the world champion at MAPPY in The King of Kong. More accurately, Rogen’s film might be the best stoner comedy by default, because it will make you wish you stayed home, packed a huge bowl and watched Caddyshack, or Fletch, one of the hazy ’80s 10.0 action-comedies this aspires to be. The first scenes with Rogen in PE are a pale, if loving, homage to that Chevy Chase classic’s aliases like Dr. Rosenpenis, likewise with the adrenalized, instrumental theme music.
Pineapple Express stumbles as an original comedy, a stoner movie and a buddy action film. It lacks the liquid-bowel laughs of last summer’s Superbad, which was also written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg. And remember the awesome fan-made Superbad: The Action Movie trailer we posted? That two-minute clip exuded the superior goofball tension and ratatat gunfire I expected when Seth Rogen expressed surprise at getting the greenlight for this “risky” blend of inhales and mayhem.
So, where the hell is this film’s totes awesome “exploding toilet”-like action sequence set to MIA’s “Paper Planes”? Where is “Paper Planes”? That song’s inclusion in the trailers undoubtedly netted this movie an extra $5-10 million, but it’s MIA. It would have loaned the by-numbers fisticuffs and explosion at the climax a passable sense of peril. Never before has a chubby guy doing generic action moves been this overblown. An argument against this review and in defense of the movie will be: “Well, it’s not supposed to be as funny as Superbad” and “it’s not supposed to be as action-y as Lethal Weapon.” And therefore the movie is not supposed to be really funny or really thrilling, correct? And the justification is, “it’s a stoner movie, OMG, it’s not supposed to be that good in general”? Okay.
Pineapple Express is essentially a party sub in which all of the dead and bloody stuff is unevenly packed into the last third; followed by endless amounts of lazy meta-improv between James Franco, Rogen and Danny McBride (who almost saves the movie) sitting on their self-gratified asses telling us how amazing the movie we just watched was. In the Judd Apatow-produced and much funnier, Step Brothers, Will Ferrell & Co. go out with a bang with a rock opera, some unclassic Billy Joel, and the affable phrase “Fucking Catalina Wine-Mixer!” If PE is the new gold standard for American comedy as proclaimed by every glossy magazine this month, I’m going to go take a shit and read my collection of National Lampoon magazines for the next year like the black dude in Summer School.
CHUD says that James Franco deserves an Oscar nomination for his “breakout role” Saul Silver. Why? For stealing Brad Pitt’s resin-torched laugh in True Romance and pronouncing the word “man” like it’s made out of taffy (or “God’s Vagina,” one of the only good lines here)? The chemistry and the bromance Franco and Rogen shared 10 years ago on Freaks and Geeks felt genuine and was far more impressive. Their aimless stoners were similarly brought together by the randomness of life i.e. high school. And Franco gives great performances in that series—he’s consistently hilarious and inventive throughout. When his Freak apologized to Rogen’s Freak after making a joke at the expense of the latter’s tuba-playing girlfriend having a baby cock, viewers cried (many were high)! It was brilliant. When Rogen and Franco have their falling out in Pineapple Express, followed by a stilted apology, it doesn’t mean anything, even for a “lowbrow action comedy” in the spirit of Lethal Weapon or 48 Hours. Clearly, the filmmakers want and need us to be invested, but it plays like two kids with lobotomies walking in opposite directions after an argument. You could debate that these characters are supposed to be exactly that (and you’d feel tainted), and you could debate that this describes many American moviegoers when they exit the theater (and you’d be right, or Hollywood Elsewhere).
In contrast, we believe that Harold and Kumar depend on each other because they’re both insecure about their futures, girls, unpredictable off-road trips, white people and NPH’s ecstasy habit. And they both really enjoy good weed. Cheech and Chong are bonded by alliteration, road trips, stupidity, poverty, broads, and the carefree fuck-the-man fumes (nice dreams?) of the ’60s and ’70s. And they both really enjoy good weed and blow. In Smiley Face, Anna Faris is the modern, funny but troubled girl (and all guys have dated one) who goes it solo, smokes herself out and simultaneously symbolizes the answer and problem to everything today (which is why “that girl” tends to ultimately disappear or become a doctor or lawyer). Stoner comedies tend to reflect and subvert the day’s culture. Rather than subverting our culture, Pineapple Express blows it back at us, to the point where a promising indie director named David Gordon Green is being cheerleaded by critics for making a just-average crowdpleaser and “adequately handling action.”
In place of the timeless comedic duo we expected from the “New Kings of Funny,” we’re offered a wannabe M. Fletch Fletcher and a talented actor who’s impersonating an actor playing a stoner and seems secretly bored. And why Rogen and Franco’s characters aren’t shot in the head by the film’s goons, nicely played by Kevin Corrigan (a great stoner in Freaks and Geeks) and Craig Robinson (The Office), before this overhyped comedy goes soggy Black Rain is a valid question not worth wasting good weed on.
6/10 (Adam Sandler’s Bulletproof x High Times porn = Overhyped, Subpar Apatow Flick)
P.S. Nikki Finke just referred to Slashfilm as “pothead fanboys.”