June 19, 2013
Written by Jonathan Schumann
Thursday, 18 September 2008 14:14
For several years, Jonathan Schumann contributed film reviews as part of the “Take Two” father-and-sons movie reviewer team. This week, his father Mark, the “Reel Dad,” steps aside to bring Jonathan back to the column for a guest appearance.
Pineapple Express is a raucously violent, genre-smashing action comedy that had me laughing from start to finish. If that last bit sounds like a cheesy, audience-pandering film critic blurb, so be it. The praise is entirely warranted: in this era of gross-out, drag-out, and flat-out tasteless humor, this one’s a gem.
While the thumbprint of current comedy maestro Judd Apatow (Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin), who produced the film, is clearly evident, the lion’s share of credit goes to writers Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen and director David Gordan Green. Goldberg and Rogen also wrote last summer’s winning Superbad, the gold standard of the Apatow brand, and here bring the same type of madcap, idiosyncratic humor. Green is best known for small-scale, character-driven fare, most notably his 2000 debut, George Washington, which was a hit at Sundance and garnered him comparisons to Terrence Malick. While his indie cred makes him an unlikely choice to helm this studio-financed buddy comedy, his attention to character detail brings heartfelt texture to the proceedings.
Pineapple Express, like many of the Apatow films, follows a slovenly burnout (Rogan) who spends his days getting high, serving legal notices, and shuffling through his romance with a high school student. His only other relationship, it seems, is with his drug dealer, Saul (Spider Man’s James Franco).
One night, after picking up a new strain of weed (nicknamed Pineapple Express), Rogan witnesses a murder while getting high. He leaves his still-burning joint at the scene, and the drug dealers and crooked cops who made the hit find it, and trace it back to Saul. As the Rogan and Franco make a run for it, a buddy comedy-chase film that recalls Midnight Run ensues.
The sharp writing and keen direction holds the outlandish antics together, as do Rogan and Franco’s winning personas. It’s no surprise to find Rogan appealing and funny, he’s the most reliable comedy front man since Will Ferrell burned out.
The big surprise is Franco, who has been labeled an up-and-comer for a long time and is most recognizable for playing Toby Maguire’s best friend turned rival in the Spider Man films. Here, he sheds the pretty boy persona that has made him so inaccessible in other films, and turns in an honest, funny performance. It helps that Goldberg and Rogan draw Saul as an atypical drug dealer — he sells weed so he can put his grandmother in an exclusive retirement home. It’s an absurd concept, but one that Franco makes entirely feasible.
The supporting characters are less memorable. Gary Cole turns in a comic version of the villain he played in A Simple Plan, and Rosie Perez is utterly forgettable as a crooked cop working on the wrong side of the law.
Superbad. Looking for a film to rent? This high school comedy is a silly, great time, but it also has a lot to say about friendship. Michael Sera, from TV’s now-defunct Arrested Development, is hilarious.
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