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Pineapple Express

dir: David Gordon Green
[img_assist|nid=108|title=Three morons for the price of two|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=452]
There’s this impulse in many of us, ‘us’ as in the kind of people who post and read opinion, commentary and other bullshit on the tubes of the internets. When anything appears, even if it is well liked from the start, there’s always this impulse to be the first to say the honeymoon is over, baby, and that thing, tv series, sequence of books or person has ‘jumped the shark’. Outlived their usefulness. Exceeded their use-by date. Outstayed their welcome.

I come not to praise Seth Rogen but to bury him. The funny, charming slightly shlubby guy has now reached the stage, at least with me, where I no longer find his shtick funny, and instead find him somewhat tiresome and obnoxious. I don’t know if it’s this film specifically, or the ‘character’ he plays, but he’s really starting to annoy me.

As an actor he has the range of a comedian, which means he has practically no range at all, and it doesn’t help that the ‘character’ he plays here is pretty much indistinguishable from anything else he’s ever done. He plays an unambitious low achiever who likes smoking dope.

That’s a fucking transformation if I ever saw one. Hey, maybe someone should hire me to play a slightly befuddled, brutish looking chap who spends his days meandering around the internets and his nights playing computer games. And hey, I can throw in the sarcastic remarks for free!

And I could do it in film after film, running that creative well so dry that nothing but dust remains.

Pineapple Express is meant to be many things, but the one thing it ends up being is pretty tedious. It’s not without some mildly entertaining parts, but the whole thing doesn’t hang together at all well. As a satire of 80s buddy stoner flicks, it’s pretty weak.

About the only thing it does well is show that James Franco, somewhat written off for his seemingly constant James Dean impersonation, is actually quite good as a comic actor. He does get into the swing of things, and, truth be told, is something of a revelation. He is quite funny as pot dealer Saul, who mistakenly believes that the people who buy pot from him are his friends.

I don’t know how true this is, but the Saul character is apparently deliberately reminiscent of probably the only believable role Brad Pitt has ever performed except for the male id transcendent in Fight Club: Floyd the stoner in True Romance. A couch-bound dope fiend wearing pants that would have been embarrassing in 1987 let alone 2008.

But here Floyd (Saul, actually) the stoner is compelled by circumstance to flee the security of his couch and venture into the harsh, bright world whilst trying to help Dale (Rogen’s paper thin character) flee from villains.

Dale accidentally witnesses a murder and becomes a target for the killer drug lord (Gary Cole, whose copious talents are wasted here) and his henchwoman, who happens to be a corrupt policewoman (Rosie Perez, who is always lucky to just get work) which, even in a film like this, makes no sense. The unique strain of dope Dale was smoking makes him and everyone associated with him a target.

Yes, there is the very vaguest semblance of a plot, and, as my nearly two-year-old daughter has just learned to say, it doesn’t matter. Suffice to say Dale and Saul stumble around for most of the flick stoned, getting into trouble and leading up to a strangely pointless shoot out and massive explosion at the bad guy’s headquarters.

Yes, the bad guy drug dealer’s headquarters blows up. It’s that kind of film. It pretends to be a satire of those kinds of films, you know the ones, but really, all it is in the end, is one of those movies, put together in a fairly half-arsed manner. See, that’s the beauty of claiming satire when you’re just incompetent filmmakers: Pearl Harbor wasn’t a bad war film, it was a satire of bad war films; Pretty Woman wasn’t a hellishly bad romantic comedy, it was a satire of romantic comedies; Gigli wasn’t a horrible comedy/drama/romance, it was a satire of etc etc etc.

For some reason I can’t decipher, Seth Rogen’s performance here grated on me from beginning to end. I doubt it was the character because the character isn’t demonstrably different from any other character Rogen has ever played. Whenever he spoke or overacted his way through scenes it just bugged the hell out of me. In contrast Franco is a fountain of humour and likeability, but he still has to be in scene after scene with Rogen’s tired character.

But he is funny at least. Whether he’s acting pretty stoned, or confronting the police in a manner N.W.A would be proud of, Franco actually made me smile or laugh out loud a number of times. And even though I found the dramatic elements dubious to say the least, the scenes between him and Rogen, whilst one-sided, are carried through because of his work.

The term many reviewers were inflicting upon the public to describe this movie in ways that I hope were facetious was as a ‘bromance’: a movie in which the love between two hetero men is celebrated and rewarded for being a many splendoured thing. As one very annoying character puts it several times: it means putting bros before hos.

Ah, men. Men with their childish ways carried forward through the delayed adolescence that is their adulthood, with their difficulties in relationships with women due to their inability to articulate (with the desired regularity) their emotions about all topics under the sun to the women in their lives.

Finally a film like Pineapple Express comes along and celebrates the unique bond between two men who barely know each other. It’s about fucking time.

Saul right off the bat treats his relationship with Dale as being more about two friends with a shared enthusiasm for high quality dope than just a financial one. Dale, for most of the flick’s length, makes it clear that Saul is just a guy who he scores dope off of. He even makes a point of calling up talkback radio and taking about the creepy and uncomfortable tension that accompanies a visit to pick up your week’s supply from someone you’re forced to be nice to in order to facilitate the necessary transaction.

But Saul doesn’t see it that way. He has love for Dale, and when he is rebuffed, he is deeply saddened. Everyone is deeply saddened by rebuffed love. Who wouldn’t be? It hurts, hurts deep down in the cockles and sub-cockle regions of the heart.

So, apart from being a celebration of deeply stupid buddy action tropes, it’s also a celebration of man love, but not the love that dares not speak its name and instead yells it from the rooftops. It’s the love that usually comes from consuming large quantities of alcohol and bitching about sports and the mysterious motivations of women that results in that kind of love expressed between men as awkward slaps on the back and the bellowing of “I, uh, love ya, man” which is more often than not regretted the next day.

All of which is merely academic, all of which is an awkward fit for an alleged stoner comedy. The whole flick is an awkward fit of poorly orchestrated set pieces and painful sequences where Seth Rogen shows how little he possesses by way of acting chops, and the filmmakers show how little they possessed in terms of ideas beyond “hey, let’s make a stoner comedy!”

To finish this review with an uncharacteristic amount of brevity, Hot Fuzz from a couple of years ago did the same thing (minus the ganja element), and succeeded where this one failed all over the place. Especially the embarrassing ending to this dumb flick.

Pineapple Express would probably have the dubious distinction of being a stoner comedy that gets less funny the more stoned you are.

5 times the only funny moment Seth Rogen gets is when he tells his underage girlfriend that his attempts to patch up their relationship are a mistake out of 10

“It's almost a shame to smoke it. It's like killing a unicorn... with, like, a bomb.” – Pineapple Express.