Saturday, October 04, 2008

Pineapple Express

*Please Note: If you are/ have been a stoner, please discount the below review in its entirety.*

"Here's my pitch: Stoners, yeah? They forget things, yeah? They get paranoid. Funny, yeah?" Not in of itself, no. Perhaps the basis of a humorous character, but no, not conceptually. I went to see this film after loving the Seth Rogan scribed "Superbad", as well as his performance in the "40 Year Old Virgin", and have never been so hugely underwhelmed. From the pacing, to the script, to the overused Windows Movie Making editing sweeps, the film screams amateur. Unfortunate really, seeing as it had a $25 million dollar budget.

My expectations were shattered around two minutes in the tone is set with an excruciatingly embarrassing scene where a US general is trying to classify marijuana, with all the subtlety of Will Ferrel on speed, wearing a jet pack, and launching fireworks into the eyes of passers by. Which in itself, shouldn't be a problem, but the dialogue is really bad. As in, Scary Movie bad.

The film follows Dale Denton (Seth Rogen), a Process Server who dons a series of disguises to deliver court summons to evasive recipients. Things turn sour when attempting a delivery, he witnesses a murder by a drug lord and a cop, and flees back to the nearest safe place to think of. With this being a stoner movie, he goes straight to his dealer's place, which neatly leads me onto the highlight of the movie.

Dale's dealer Saul Silver (James Franco) provides pretty much all of the entertainment for the movie, not only in terms of lines given to him by the script, but in terms of performance too. Previously, I'd only seen him as the uptight, angsty Harry Osbourne in the "Spider-man" movies, whereas here he plays pretty much the polar opposite of that character with aplomb.

The same can't be said for Rogen, who plays Denton exactly the same throughout this and the last X films I've seen him in, and is quickly becoming a Vince Vaughn-esque actor. Great the first few times, but the law of diminishing returns takes a heavy toll. What makes him more annoying, apart from the self satisfied smugness he emanates throughout, is the fact that it seems almost impossible to differentiate between his character when stoned and when not.

Worse still, the villains are indistinguishable from those found in an average Steven Seagal film, but those are funny because the film is supposed to be serious. Here, the film is supposed to be a comedy, perhaps some kind of faintly amusing dialogue could be inserted somewhere, but apparently the writers were too busy air punching and giving each other high-fives at their own brilliance. A great summary for this is when the audience sees into a surveillance van, the gang members within spout "I need a shit." Also, some reviewers seem to be amazed that Denton references Godspeed You! Black Emperor at one point, but the delivery of it only adds to the smug "aren't we cool" vibe of the film.

Despite all of this there are a few laughs to be found in the film, most of which are on the trailer. Franco gets a couple of good lines here and there, and some of the fight scenes may raise a smile, but not quite reaching the level of creating laughter or excitement. The stand out section is an extended car chase, with a window blocked out by burrito filling, but even that stretches the time-joke ratio a bit too thinly.

Too much screen and script time is devoted to the characters being high. Not particularly doing anything, just being high. Like getting paranoid in a forest where they "hilariously" fall over. No jokes. No storytelling. Just wandering around for ages. The same happens at the end of the movie, where the characters sit around in a café, for even longer.

In a way, I also feel that I've missed the point of the movie entirely, having not bothered becoming a stoner myself, perhaps the idea is you watch it high, or go "hey I remember when we did shit like that". But the problem is, this is not a great defence for a movie. You can't write a movie, release it around the world, just so you can show off an in-joke to your friends. That's what youtube is for. The film is like one of those tedious "pet" stories where people tell about their dog or hamster or whatever, which are great for the owners but lose any sense of purpose in the telling.

But it doesn't matter really, it still feels like lazy writing to make characters quite so joke free as in here for a comedy film. Ed from Shaun of the Dead on his own was better than the entire cast on show here. The Big Lebowski managed to give the characters a sense of depth and personality, as well as *shock* being funny. None of which are present here.

Rogen himself has stated that it's not just aimed at stoners, it's supposed to be a great comedy for everyone, which really doesn't feel like it's something that was thought through. Perhaps it was the sheer hype surrounding the movie, or the quality of their preceding work that has made this seem so harsh and bitter, but for me, Pineapple Express could have made a good sketch. However, with that amount of material stretched over two hours it was one of the least impressive comedies I've seen in a while.

And yes, I am aware that Disaster Movie is out as well, so what about that? Well, please note that I used the words “Comedies” and “Seen” in that last sentence, and I'm sure you'll realise that it's been filed in my head under “fetid horrid shit”.