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Aug 14, 2008

Fletch's Film Review: Pineapple Express

It's serendipitous that Step Brothers and Pineapple Express were released mere weeks apart. Aside from both being branded by the A-word (rhymes with Slapatow), both star a pair of adults playing "man-children."

Oh wait - that part is nothing new to the Apatuniverse - they've existed all along. What really groups these two together is that in each we are shown a pair of men who are all too similar, but who aren't friends at the beginning for one reason or another. However, where Brothers was happy with pushing through the emotional connection that the brothers made with light speed ("You like these things? Me too! Let's be best friends now!"), Pineapple shows us the complexity that takes a casual business relationship (James Franco's dealer:Seth Rogen's user) and turns it into the all-too cliched "bromance."

Rogen's Dale Denton has never liked the thought of "drug dealer as friend," and it's hard not to blame him. As Go pointed out years before, there are several intricacies to the dealer-user arrangement. Though, whereas Go's resident dealer Todd (Timothy Olyphant) was a no-nonsense, no b.s. businessman, complete with a hard edge, Franco's Saul is the happy-go-lucky type, and we are shown through his dealings with another customer that he sees Dale differently than the rest of them. They are annoying "lingerers" that he sells his schwag to; Dale is the guy he pleads to stay and watch some TV while smoking his Grade A weed, none other than the titular Pineapple Express (a scene that feels a bit like Pulp Fiction's transaction between John Travolta and Eric Stolz).

Dale's interested in the primo marijuana but still hesitant to hang with Saul, who appears as little more than an airhead but is actually much craftier and deeper than we're first led to believe. Dale, a process server (hooray for the Fletch homage), wants to get his work done for the day, which entails delivering a subpoena to Gary Cole's gangster (the flattest character in the film). The rest you've no doubt seen in the trailer: Dale witnesses a murder, and he and Saul end up on the run from Cole and a crooked cop (Rosie Perez; installed seemingly just to up the estrogen count and feeling out of place), amongst others.

But a funny thing happens on the way to the pot farm: Dale realizes that Saul is his best friend, and the two share many touching, if goofy, scenes. Sure, they yell at each other a lot in between tokes, but they also look out for each other, bond over juice boxes and of course, get high a lot. A scene with the two frolicking (yes, frolicking) in a forest may fit in better with director David Gordon Green's earlier work, but feels wildly out of place in Pineapple. Or at least, it does at first, but by the time Saul tells Dale how he feels about him ("They say don't dip the pen in company ink. I'm totally glad I dipped my pen in your ink, bro"), two things become clear: first, that the scene is perfect, and second, that Mrs. Fletch wants a t-shirt that says "I'm totally glad I dipped my pen in your ink."

It's not all pixies and fairy dust, though. The third act, which is heavy on action and lighter on dialogue, is laborious and slow. It all starts to feel a bit like Dude, Where's My Car?, with the convergence of the collected parties (Dale and Saul, Ted and his henchpeople, an Asian mob) all coming together for a deadly, and gruesome, showdown.

If there's a saving grace, it's the work of a few other Apatow vets, FF-UN Kevin Corrigan (Superbad), scene-stealing Craig Robinson (the bouncer from Knocked Up) and the consistent work of Franco, who, with his Pitt/True Romance homage, has crafted one of the most three-dimensional "stoner" characters I've seen, and despite being one of the two leads, manages to steal every scene he's in. While Green cut to scenes of Cole and Perez devising their plans, I was waiting for more Saul, and damned if I don't think he's as important to Express as Ledger is to The Dark Knight. If, for no other reason, see it for him...well, and the chance to see him sell pot to junior high kids. How many movies can get away with that?

Fletch's Film Rating:

"It's in the darn tootin hole!"


5 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Pineapple Express"

WaywardJam said...

I almost made a Dude Where's My Car reference in my review!

I think my wife is officially in love with James Franco now. She wished he had dropped trou' instead of Rogen. Should I be worried?

Dead Pan said...

I am glad to see you also enjoyed this. I thought I may be the only one.

Fletch said...

Wayne, just so long as your wife doesn't want Franco to dip his pen in her ink, I think you're alright.

Deadpan - yep, the more I think about it, the more I like it. I want to see it again just for Saul. Though I am still pissed that they gave Cole nothing to work with. he comes off pretty bad, and that's a crime in 23 states.

Tony Tanti said...

Can't wait to see it, I've heard mixed reviews but when they used that MIA song in the trailer I was sold.

movie buff said...

first half of Pineapple Express was about half as good as Knocked Up; the second half was almost as bad as Freddy Got Fingered