August 6, 2008

Pineapple Express (08/06/08)

Although The Dark Knight is (and will likely remain) the movie I've most enjoyed this summer, I'm not lying when I say that Pineapple Express is a close second. The flick starts off in somewhat familiar territory as a slackers-on-the-run-from-the-mob comedy, but then the picture segweys into a completely over-the-top, balls out action-comedy extravaganza as the two leads unwittingly trigger a full-scale drug war. It reminds me of 2007's Hot Fuzz in that the writing is original and fresh and director David Gordon Green's staging is as good as any you'll see in a straight-up action movie, but there's just the right twist of sarcasm and ridiculousness to make everything perversely genius.

I'm not a pot smoker myself, and apart from The Big Lebowski I usually don't like stoner comedies much, but that's not exactly what this movie is. It's more like an extreme hodge-podge of man-on-the-run, super-action, and kung-fu flicks with some relatively inoffensive weed humor thrown in, as opposed to the more typical pot flick about dopey, stoned guys having a low-grade adventure (see How High, Half-Baked, the films of Kevin Smith, and the Cheech & Chong septet).

The script was written by Evan Goldberg and actor Seth Rogen, who also wrote last year's Superbad. Refreshingly, Rogen has put himself in slightly more of a straight-man role this time, playing the more clear-headed of the two stoners opposite James Franco, who really steals the movie as pot-dealer Saul. Reportedly, Rogen wrote the Saul part with himself in mind, but realized in an early read-through that Franco would be much funnier in the role. That's not to say that Rogen didn't give himself a fair share of great lines and moments too, but you also have to award him mucho credit for giving up a plum part in the spirit of making the picture better.

There are a number of wonderful surprises and truly funny scenes in this movie, but in the interest of spoiling as little as possible, I'll keep my comments protectively vague. One observation I will make, though, is that I found it hysterical that a number of plot lines were simply thrown out the window when the show-down neared. The supporting cast is stellar, and the score by Graeme Revell is cheesy and great.

After the movie, Laura and I talked a little about the vague attempt at a "kids, too much pot can lead to bad things" message at various points. I, too, felt that it seemed half-hearted at best, but I'm not sure that impressionable kids will walk away thinking that either of the leads are especially cool guys who are enviable for many reasons anyway.

All in all, Pineapple Express is inventive, crazy, and a hell of a lot of fun. It will make a nice companion piece to Hot Fuzz and Lebowski on my DVD shelf someday... praise which, perhaps, is the highest I can give to any movie, new or old.

Lettergrade: B

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