August 6, 2008

This ‘Pineapple’ Leaves a Bitter Taste

By Soren Andersen, The News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash.

Aug. 6--I see a room. It's full of smoke and the sounds of maniacal giggling.

I had a mental image of this room as I watched "Pineapple Express." I imagined it was the place where the picture was hatched.

The smoke would be from high-octane locoweed. The laughter would be from people who most definitely did inhale. A lot.

Pure conjecture here, to be sure. But "Pineapple" sure gives you the impression that it was made by stoners for stoners.

Members of the moviegoing public who do not indulge in vegetative mind-benders are likely to be bored out of their nonbenumbed skulls. Mixed in with the smell of burning grass is another, even more noticeable odor: the reek of creative self-indulgence.

Co-written and starring Seth Rogen (Evan Goldberg shares screenplay credit) and directed by David Gordon Green, this is yet another product from uberproducer Judd Apatow's comedy factory.

Uh, fella, I think maybe you're diluting your brand. Yes, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" was a scream, and "Knocked Up" was a hoot and "Superbad" was a howl for the most part.

But then came the middling "Step Brothers" and "You Don't Mess with Zohan" (which Apatow co-wrote but did not produce), and the box-office bombs "Walk Hard" and "Drillbit Taylor" (co-written by Rogen, who also co-wrote "Superbad" with Goldberg). All of these pictures have come out in less than a year's time. Time for a timeout, maybe. The law of diminishing returns seems to be asserting itself.

This "Pineapple" tastes rather rancid. The title refers to a brand of super-duper marijuana -- "the dopest dope I've ever smoked," a character claims -- that Rogen's character, a stoned-out process server, buys from his zoned-out dealer (James Franco). In the midst of toking up on the potent product on a city street, Rogen catches sight of someone being shot to death by a crooked cop played by Rosie Perez.

One things leads to another, and a joint dropped at the scene by the panicky Rogen leads Perez and Gary Cole, playing Franco's vicious supplier, to conclude that someone has seen the dirty deed done. And that leads to two hit men being dispatched to do Rogen and Franco in before they can squeal to the cops.

Before the killing, the movie mostly consists of Rogen and Franco frying their brains and discoursing woozily on their less-than-satisfactory lives. After the killing, the picture devolves into endless scenes of panicked screaming and running around by Rogen and Franco as they try to evade the killers.

Later there's a car chase. Eventually there's a massive shootout. For a movie that's supposed to be a comedy, the body count in "Pineapple" is way, way up there. There are way more corpses than laughs.

Comedies bearing the Apatow brand are generally characterized by a significant amount of heart and sweetness in their storytelling that counterbalances the saltiness in their dialogue. The proportions are all out of whack here. The dialogue is gratuitously crude, cursing for cursing's own potty-mouthed sake.

And Apatow's trademark sweetness is missing. Neither Rogen nor Franco nor Danny McBride, who plays another protagonist in the simple-minded plot, are able to imbue their characters with anything resembling likability. They're unappealing losers and lowlifes with big mouths and tiny little brains.

Soren Andersen: 253-597-8660

2 stars

Pineapple Express

Director: David Gordon Green

Cast: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride, Gary Cole and Rosie Perez

Running Time: 1:52

Rating: R; language, scenes of drug use, violence

Where: In wide release


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