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‘Pineapple Express’ a Long Ride to Nowhere

August 6, 2008

By Daniel Neman, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.

Aug. 6–The new stoner comedy “Pineapple Express” is endless, simply endless.

Hey, maybe it could borrow one of those spare endings left over from “The Dark Knight.”

It wouldn’t be a problem if the movie were actually funny, but it is most emphatically not. Which is sadly just what we have come to expect from the Judd Apatow comedy assembly line.

Apatow has had a hand in releasing eight movies in 14 months — four this summer alone. He is producer and co-creator of the story of “Pineapple Express,” and one thing has long been clear: Apatow and his acolytes are shooting for quantity over quality. They simply are not putting enough effort into their work, and it shows. Boy, does it show.

The temptation is to try to excuse “Pineapple Express” as a stoner comedy, with the tacit assumption that most stoner comedies are written by people who are stoned and who therefore find the jokes better than they actually are.

But the problem here goes deeper than that. Seth Rogen co-wrote the script, and the last time Rogen co-wrote an Apatow comedy, the result was this March’s “Drillbit Taylor.”

At least “Pineapple Express” is funnier than that film, because “Pineapple Express” has one good joke. It comes when the character played by Rogen gets caught up in declaring his love for a woman, but not caught up enough to entertain a thought of marriage. And a chase in a police car also stands out for an amusing bit about the windshield.

The rest of the jokes, however, are along these lines: Two characters are looking for a lost phone in the woods. “Do you see it?” asks one. “See what?” ripostes the second. “The phone, you idiot!” quips the first, merrily.

In another bit of high hilarity, one character is a process server and the other thinks his job is called “protest server.”

The entire script is stuffed full of jokes that are just as bad, and the bewildered audience sits there quietly aghast, wondering why the filmmakers thought to include them.

The biggest problem with the film, though, isn’t the comedy, it’s the story. The idea of a drug user and his drug dealer (a loopy James Franco) on the lam from gangsters and crooked police certainly has potential, but Rogen and co-writer Evan Goldberg don’t know what to do with it. And once they do something with it, director David Gordon Green doesn’t know how to shoot it.

The action scenes in particular, of which there are several, lack excitement and humor, and are produced with an undertaker’s pace. Of all the scenes in this movie that feel endless, it is they that feel the endlessest.

Contact Daniel Neman at (804) 649-6408 or .

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Copyright (c) 2008, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.

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