Pineapple Express (2008) dir. David Gordon Green
Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Gary Cole
“Pineapple Express” is written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg who penned the immensely popular “Superbad”. That first film was their lifelong passion project. “Pineapple Express” feels like that other script they picked off the shelf, dusted off and quickly moved into production hot on the heals of their first major success. This one is a wild, meandering journey that lacks the discipline and focus of their first effort. Call a sophomore jinx – or, their “Mallrats”.
Seth Rogen plays Dale Denton, a process server who loves to get high. His supplier is a congenial Gen X slacker, Saul (James Franco). One day, while on a job to serve someone his papers Dale observes a mob-style murder. Although he gets away quickly he leaves behind a roach, which the drug kingpin Ted Jones (Gary Cole) uses to identify Saul. Dale and Saul suddenly find themselves on the run from the mob, fighting hand-to-hand, shooting guns and getting into car chases.
David Gordon Green, famous for his arty American indie flicks like “George Washington” and “All the Real Girls”, is a hired hand director. I applaud his effort to go mainstream and expand his horizons. Going by his previous indie feature, “Snow Angels”, a dismal dreary effort, he was a ripe for a change of pace and a little exercise of his funny bone. His direction of the action is competent but his ear for comedy is better. Other than a few quirky moments he’s languid style is invisible in this film.
A familiar face from the Gordon Green players is cast, the new soon to be ‘it’ guy, Danny McBride, who has slowly made a name for himself over the last year with “Foot Fist Way” and “Tropic Thunder”. For Green fans, you’ll recognize him as the obnoxious but loveable Bust-Ass in “All the Real Girls”. McBride plays Saul’s middleman, Red, a nave who seeks redemption for selling out his friends.
Unfortunately McBride’s presence is intermittent, and Franco and Rogen share the main stage. The duo is just not strong enough to sustain the lengthy scenes of inane babble which they either recite, mumble or shout at each other. Specifically, the lengthy car-in-the-woods scene seems to run on forever. I think it eats up about 10mins of screen time, without generating any narrative momentum. It’s only when McBride is introduced that the film completes its comic team. Franco and Rogen have some great banter but after the first act, their routine gets stale. But with McBride in the room we suddenly have a great trio.
“Pineapple Express” actually has a lot in common with “Superbad”. Both are films about real people in extraordinary situations, with “Pineapple Express” taken to the extreme. The humour is generated from the reactions of Dale, Saul and Red to their situations. Every once in a while Dale has to stop what he’s doing to question in insanity he finds himself in. It’s not a unique brand of humour (the current SNL players have a similar style), but it’s comedians like Seth Rogen who are leading this charge of self-awareness.
The final scene is the perfect way to the end the film, just a bunch of guys talking ‘about last night’. Reminiscing as if Seth and Evan would have done at the end of “Superbad”, about the crazy fucked shit they just went through. Unfortunately it all sounded better in dialogue, than what we saw on screen.