Director: David Gordon Green
Running Time: 111 minutes
This review from Filmjack3
It’s a given that when you go to a Judd Apatow movie now (and he’s only directed two, but they’re still ‘movies’ anyway, despite the growing stable of directors) you’ll know what to expect more or less. After 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad, Walk Hard, and to a lesser extent Forgetting Sarah Marshall, there’s an expectation- if you’re tuned into the sensibility of off-the-wall, filthy but improvisational comedy- for it to be good, or even awesome in whatever ‘fold’ of comedy its in. Pineapple Express, for the Apatow fan, is as awesome and dumb and illogical and purely enjoyable as comedies get this year, let alone for its ‘fold’, which in this case is the pot comedy cross-pollinated with ridiculous 80s action flick.
It’s awesome, for one thing, because the screenwriters Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (also responsible for Superbad) don’t give a crap about making anything too, um… should I say realistic? Maybe plausible is more the word in this case, as realism implies that there isn’t spoof going on here, which there is, in the kind of subtle AND over the top craziness that one loves to see done right. In this case the movie starts out with an amazing opening scene set in “1937 – The United States”, where a secret government test is being done on the effects of marijuana on a soldier (which, oddly enough, make the soldier act and talk like someone in the 21st century, which makes it funnier), and there’s a slight reefer madness tint to it.
Then, after the initial set-up- where Dale (Rogen), a subpoena deliverer and frequent pot smoker, gets in hot water for seeing a murder take place by a villainous drug dealer caught in a war with ‘Asians’, and then implicates his drug dealer Saul (very uncharacteristic James Franco) by leaving ‘evidence’ behind of the film’s title- the writers kick things off into a sly, really insane take off on 80s action thrillers. Make no mistake, they’re true to the sources: this might be one of the most violent comedies ever made, a hard, capital R where the least violent bit was shown in the trailer with Franco badly, uproariously kicking his foot through the windshield during a high-speed chase.
But one might ask, is the cartoonish violence enough to make it awesome? Not quite – what really clicks for a viewer who wouldn’t touch pot with a ten foot mouthpiece are the actors and how much serious fun they take the material. Rogen and Franco, the latter of which giving his best performance yet (yes, best performance, see it and see what I mean compared to his so-so Spiderman parts), click instantly and work off one another in that great, somewhat predictable buddy-comedy mold. They bond, they argue, they separate for a bit, and then finally come back together for that show-stopping finale. To reveal what happens there, of course, would ruin all the fun, but everyone involved in the cast (Danny McBride, Rosie Perez, Gary Cole, Ed Begley Jr, Kevin Corrigan, Craig Robinson, and all those Japanese or Chinese or Vietcong I can’t remember) pitch in for scene after scene that never fails to rise some laughs.
In fact Pineapple Express is so funny, so relentlessly action packed and loaded with the kind of dialog that’s brilliant for being so natural in its crude and stupidity (again, an Apatow trademark), that it’s incredible to think the director is David Gordon Green. This is almost akin to, though not to make a complete comparison, Terence Mallick or Darren Aronofsky helming a Mel Brooks production. What compelled him to take on a raucous pot-action comedy that continuously tops itself I can’t totally say (save for just wanting a change of pace in genre and control over material). But it’s equally incredible that he manages to get in some moments of his own sensibility into the film in those little moments when Rogen and Goldberg don’t have a lot going on, when the visual aspect can be emphasized. Not to mention, on top of this, he’s able and ready to direct “genre” material without making it too serious.
It’s an artistic statement AND one of the most memorably brutal climaxes in recent movie history, and I loved nearly every “what-the-hell” minute of it. Where else will I get to see bullet-strewn drug dealers and ears partly chopped off treated with the reverence of the Daily Show?