08 August 2008

Mooney at the Movies: Pineapple Express

Rogen, Franco, and McBride feel the burn. (Columbia)

Pineapple Express (B)

Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride, Gary Cole, Rosie Perez, Amber Heard
Story by Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg
Screenplay by Rogen & Goldberg
Directed by David Gordon Green

Pineapple Express is the latest in the Judd Apatow canon. But like the unbelievable cannabis of the film, this is an entirely different breed.

For one, there's no sex. Co-writers Rogen and Goldberg (the much better Superbad) have traded it for drugs and violence. And there's plenty of both to spare here, even at the cost of some good jokes.

Now if you've seen the previews, you know the set-up: pothead Dale Denton (Rogen) witnesses a murder and goes on the lam with his dealer (Franco, in his best performance, well, ever). Luckily, the writers are gifted enough to keep this from simply being a one-joke movie ("Hey. We're high. This is funny").

Alas, with so many jokes flying, not all of them hit, and a lot of them come off as creepy or unsettling. Take for instance Dale's relationship with high school student (Amber Heard). It's not really offensive; just, well, kinda wrong. Of course this relationship does lead to some of the movies best bits, including a cameo by a completely-out-of-character Ed Begley, Jr. as her irate father, but it just all feels a bit icky.

And for some reason, everyone involved in the project has insisted on realistic violence, and with blood and bullets flying everywhere it makes for a darker tone that doesn't really belong in this movie. The only time it's not realistic: when Rogen and Franco take on Danny McBride (actually funny and not annoying) at his house. And that's because they fight hand-to-hand like girls and have no automatic weapons.

When the movie is really freewheeling and doesn't take itself too seriously is when it truly soars. During Rogen and Franco's rambling conversations about their jobs and friendship, you almost feel like these are real guys. And that actually aids the movie in its violent scenes: these guys really have no idea what they're doing, so they don't look very determined when they attack their assailants, guns a-blazing.

Much like this summer's earlier Apatow offering Step Brothers, it's funny but you know everyone involved could have done a little bit better. But you'll still laugh your head off. And I mean it, bro.

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