Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Frank Review of "Pineapple Express" (2008)

The Short Version? Dopers on the run from cops, crooks, and '80s film influences.
What Is It? Action-comedy
Who Is In It? The Knocked-Up guy, Harry Osborn, Kenny Powers, Lucas Buck, Gloria Clemente, Darryl Philbin, Eddie Finnerty
Should I See It? Yes

NSFW Language

Sorry this review is running late, but I had another I'd planned to run, and had to type this one up from scratch. It isn't so much that "Pineapple Express" demanded a review out of me, but I'm so rarely timely with these things that I'd hate to sit on an opening weekend option. It also isn't that I didn't enjoy "Pineapple Express," as I had great fun. It's more on the "Superbad" end of the comedy spectrum, but replacing sweet youthful naivete with burnout bonding and teenage hijinks with an Americanized Guy Ritchie film. I mean the good ones, before he met Madonna.

The thing about "Pineapple Express" is that it looks like a stoner comedy, and it reads very much like anything else Seth Rogen's written, but people lose body parts in this bitch. You think it'll be a goof until the first guy gets his brains splattered against a window, and it still is, but you also get some pretty impressive stunt work, car crash, and so on. I'm not sure I've ever seen a movie so purely a comedy and an action movie at once, with neither compromised for the sake of the other. You'll laugh while being simultaneously impressed by how thoroughly believable it looked when that guys head smashed through a sink. Usually, you would at least have to delve into dark comedy when someone's foot is blown off, but the tone is so consistently light that I'd expect only the most squeamish audience members to bat an eye. It truly is Tex Avery with a body count.

Seth Rogen handled the fights scenes quite well, and I'm now really looking forward to his getting into shape for "The Green Hornet." There will not be a second James Franco is on screen that you will be reminded of Harry Osborne, James Dean, or any other tortured role the guy seemed stuck with for life. Danny McBride steals every scene he's in, which is no small feat, and has me anticipating "Tropic Thunder" all the more. I'm always happy to see Gary Cole in anything, and Rosie Perez actually proved an agreeable asset for once.

For me though, the best thing about "Pineapple Express" is that it takes nothing for granted, and overlooks no one. Every character in the movie is, if not a real person, still willing to jarringly break type to remind you this isn't just another generic action comedy. When you're watching, say, "Ms. Congeniality," you know the function and motivation of every character automatically. They're not even types, but icons, like the figures that mark bathroom doors. Here, yes Ed Beagley Jr. and Nora Dunn will be playing a pair of stiff parents, but Ed's going to talk just like you would in his situation, and you should hope you'd be as handy with a shotgun. If you decide to kick out a windshield, things may not play like the movies. Characters will decide on one course of action, take a minute, and reconsider-- just like in real life. It shouldn't be unexpected, but movies have trained us so well, it makes you aware of your Pavlovian inclinations. Also, humor and horror thrive on the element of surprise, and those twists serve this film well in the former concern.

"Pineapple Express" is by no means the second coming, and to be honest, I preferred both "Knocked-Up" and "Superbad." The difference is that I respect "Pineapple Express" more for the hurdles it leaps, and for actors who really go above and beyond in roles that could have been treated as a cakewalk. This movie earns every laugh and a punch in the shoulder for moxie besides.

Note: The song from the trailer is "Paper Planes" by M.I.A.

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