Sunday, August 17, 2008

At the movies: Pineapple Express

Shocking, I know, but I actually went to a theater to see yet another product from the Judd Apatow comedy factory: "Pineapple Express." (Proof of Apatow's dominance: most of the trailers were for movies Apatow has nothing to do with, but are stuffed with members of the Apatow Family Players, like "Role Models" with Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks and McLovin; and "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist," with Michael Cera, Jay Baruchel and Kat Dennings.) Quick spoilers coming up just as soon as I celebrate my cat's birthday...

Though I enjoyed it, I think I have to put "Pineapple Express" towards the bottom of the Apatow pantheon (said Pantheon is defined as movies either written and/or directed by Apatow himself, or written by alumni of "Freaks and Geeks"). Certainly not as deep as either "40-Year-Old Virgin" or "Knocked Up," or even "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," and slightly less funny on average than "Superbad" (though the laughs were peppered throughout the movie, where "Superbad" tailed off significantly in the second half, especially whenever McLovin was off-screen).

Given that "Midnight Run" is probably my all-time favorite movie, I was pleased when I heard Seth Rogen and company point to that film as a touchstone for "Pineapple Express." But while some of the action parts of the action-comedy worked -- specifically, the car chase, where the application of stoner logic to a cliched scenario made it something special -- all the pieces didn't fit together well. I kept waiting, for instance, for Rogen's process server skills to turn out to be very useful in defeating Gary Cole (who didn't really get anything funny to do), but they just dropped that part of the character. Though I wouldn't want to have missed Ed Begley's cameo, the stuff with the girlfriend went nowhere, too. And I'm still not sure I'm on board with that over-the-top climax, where Rogen suddenly turned bad-ass for no reason. (I think it would have been much funnier if the two of them succeeded in spite of their total ineptness at fighting, shooting, etc.)

All that being said, it's just a pleasure to watch guys like Rogen and Danny McBride and Craig Robinson riff on each other, and I was especially happy to see James Franco remind people that he can, in fact, be funny. (I had to re-watch the entirety of "Freaks and Geeks" to figure that out.) Saul the pot dealer wasn't exactly another Daniel Desario (he's kinder, gentler and less neurotic, plus he has a Bubbe), but he's in the same laid-back vein that drives other characters nuts when things get tense. And the Bill Hader black-and-white teaser was just brilliant, and a reminder that this guy is really underused on "SNL."

Overall, the good parts of "Pineapple Express" outweighed the disappointing ones, and I'm not worried about Apatow overkill yet (I'm looking forward to "Funny People," his next turn as writer/director), but it wasn't as great as I hoped for.

What did everybody else think?

14 comments:

jim treacher said...

I haven't seen it yet, but I was happy to see Jay Baruchel in Tropic Thunder. And Samm Levine just got cast in Inglorious Bastards! F&G Triumphant.

jim treacher said...

(Yes, I consider Undeclared part of the F&G universe.)

Dark Tyler said...

Haven't seen this one yet but dude, 'Superbad' is the greatest movie ever made! Here's a helpful guide. :)

Andrew said...

I'm not worried about Apatow overkill yet

I gotta disagree here. I think we're past overkill. I'm becoming increasingly annoyed at how Apatow's name overshadows all other aspects of the films he's associated with, no matter how marginal his creative involvement actually is. Let's just look at this film as an example. It's director is one of the best young filmmakers currently working, yet because Apatow's name is on the picture, his name doesn't even warrant a mention in this review. There's something wrong with that.

Hoju1313 said...

I liked "Pineapple Express" but didn't love it. Having followed the Apatow gang since F&G and Undeclared, I think I feel a connection to the people in these movies, and want to like everything they do. But the loose, improvised style of these films can be hit or miss. It wasn't until I read your post, that I compared PE to Midnight Run (one of my all time favorites). I doubt that in 20 years I will be stopping what I am doing to watch Pineapple Express on TNT.
"You have two expressions, silence and rage."

Alan Sepinwall said...

It's director is one of the best young filmmakers currently working, yet because Apatow's name is on the picture, his name doesn't even warrant a mention in this review. There's something wrong with that.

I was in a hurry, but I didn't mention David Gordon Green for a reason. Though there are a couple of sequences (the guys frollicking in the woods, the guys partying with the high school kids in the parking lot) that are vaguely reminiscent of what I've seen of "All the Real Girls" and "George Washington," the bulk of the movie, both visually and tonally, is very similar to the other Apatow/Rogen movies ("Superbad" in particular, which was directed by Greg Mottola).

I'm not saying Green didn't significantly contribute to "Pineapple Express," but it's beginning to seem like the Apatow-produced films are set up like a television show (not surprising, given Apatow's background), where the director's primary job is to facilitate the actors and the script (and, in this case, the improv).

J said...

Might rent it, eventually, but I'm one of those who are sick of the brand. Some of that's because of the PR Machine engaged with each new one (and there are like 17,000 Apatow-related comedies per year, now, right?), some of that's a quality issue (I've found the ones I've seen overrated, though I liked some things about Knocked Up).

DGG's presence intrigued me (I loved All the Real Girls more than anyone should know), but when he cited Tango & Cash as an influence I decided to feel good about this flick's inevitable box office love without contributing to it.

Gish said...

Alan,

Have you seen East Bound and Down or whatever HBO is calling the Danny McBride pilot yet? It is hysterical.

JFunk said...

I thought it was okay. The action scenes were too long for what they were. I thought everything with Gary Cole was confusing and seemed like it was cut weirdly - it didn't seem to fit very well in the movie. I thought the best scene was the very end with the guys just riffing about what they just went through.

I actually posted a more succinct review about this movie, as well as "The Dark Knight" at my website, www.onlydrinkhighlife.com, if anyone is interested.

Rich C said...

Not saying you're wrong, but that last scene was just weird to me. We're watching these guys tell us about stuff we just saw them do? (Actually, I could handle that, but now we are watching characters tell us about things we watched them do, AND ALSO just watched them tell each other.) But the real problem, is then they say it for a 3rd time.
That kind of embodies my issues with the movie. While most of the moments of the film were fine, from an execution stand point, it was repetative and dissappointing.
Certainly didn't hate it. (My favorite part was the "stuck in the woods" portion. Also: Garagely...)

Kristin said...

Not as funny as "Superbad"? Well, considering I thought that movie was terribly unfunny, this now has been classified as 'stinker' in my list of movies. Thanks for saving me the trouble...

legion said...

I laughed throughout this movie. Its switches gears all over the place and I liked that. The feeling of three or four movies thrown together in a blender kept me wondering what was going to happen next.

And whatever did happen next was always a surprise, and was funny. Everyone keeps attributing the guys-in-the-woods scene to the director, which makes me want to check out other David Gordon Green flicks (I've not seen any). Because that scene was brilliant and funny and the last thing I expected to see in the midst of this stoner/action/comedy thing. But an entire movie of that wouldn't have been right.

Most reviews I've been reading seemed to like different parts, and dislike others. But everyone seems to have different ideas of which parts should be kept and which didn't work. For me, it was all those mismatched pieces together that made it sing.

Anonymous said...

Alan, this is a little off topic, sort of, but I saw a movie on cable the other day called "The TV Set" with David Duchovney. This movie was directed by Jake Kasdan, and the Duchovney character was a bearded jewish writer who wrote a tv pilot that got mangled by the suits. Do you know if this was essentially a biography on judd apatow and his experience with nbc and freaks and geeks? really good movie by the way. sigourney weaver and judy greer were hilarious

Matt said...

Yes. "The TV Set" (which I was one of the like 5 people who saw in the theatre) is a commentary on Jake Kasdan's work in TV, including the Apatow shows.