September 8, 2008

Film Review: Pineapple Express: Disjointed Effort Goes to Pot

By Siobhan Synnot


Director: David Gordon Green Running time: 111 minutes

BE PREPARED to revisit many of the most recognisable House of Judd Apatow obsessions previously exhibited in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Don't Mess With The Zohan, Knocked Up and Superbad - such as young men who display all the smarts of a bear with its head stuck in a honey pot, inventive swearing, the romantic disparity between a chunky, committed couch potato and some hyper, sharp- featured, middle-class beauty, and a film running time that could easily lose 20 minutes.

True to form, the heroes of Pineapple Express are not one but two men who live to smoke pot and not do much of anything else. Exhibit one is Dale (Seth Rogan), who spends his days delivering subpoenas to unsuspecting members of the public, or visiting his 18-year-old girlfriend during breaks in her classes. She's more mature than he is, and since he's 25, he knows this is probably inappropriate. When he isn't stoned. So he keeps this unease at bay by regularly visiting his best friend and pot dealer Saul (James Franco), who one day offers him some of the most exclusive marijuana in the world, Pineapple Express, a variety so famously rare that smoking it is "like killing a unicorn".

It also kick-starts a radical change to their direction-free lives. While sitting in his car enjoying his purchase, Dale witnesses a murder by a top drug lord (Gary Cole) and a corrupt female cop (Rosie Perez) and accidentally drops the remains of his joint. Since Dale and Saul can both be traced through the rarity of the blend, they go on the run and are forced to forge a real relationship while trying to avoid being killed in the process.

The warm and lazy 'bromance' that develops between the two leads is probably the only part of the film that holds focus, and the movie is shrewd enough to sketch out a point about the depth or shallowness of the cordial relationship between a dingbat dealer and his clients.

Franco is perhaps best known from the Spiderman movies, as a rich former friend with a brooding grudge against Peter Parker, but he's almost unrecognisable here, radiating a double-glazed bonhomie that renders some of the film's lamer conceits at least likeable, even though you may still have a small intake of breath at Dale and Saul's desperate adventures selling dope to 13-year-olds. Rogen is best known for his breakout performance in Knocked Up and has somehow parlayed boorishness into charisma. The wrapping helps. He may talk like a navvy but he's built like the big friendly one from the Hair Bear Bunch, and makes it easy to accept that an 18-year- old might fall for a guy like that, even if that girl would probably/ definitely not be you.

"Pot makes bad movies better," says the leading man of this shambolic, not-quite-finished-and-nobody-cares movie, and while I stayed clean and sober throughout Pineapple Express, maybe it wouldn't hurt when the movie before you has such a stoned sensibility. Like many a pot story it also gets a bit messy before the end too. Who knows why the film decides to subvert its own mellow vibe with a queasy comedown where half the cast ends up bleeding from an inordinate number of bullet wounds? It certainly adds a new element in the Judd Apatow to-do list, but watching someone getting shot in the back of the head is enough to kill anyone's buzz.

On general release from Friday

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