I checked out the new stoner comedy Pineapple Express; here are 11 random thoughts.
I am a fan of the Judd Apatow-Seth Rogen school of comedies. I think they’re doing tremendous things for the genre and I think they’re tremendously funny. So I went into Pineapple Express with very high hopes. Were my expectations met? Here are my scattered thoughts…
1 | It actually took me a long time to come up with 11 things for this list
Which is a really bad sign. These lists, to me, are like the conversations you have with your friends over dinner after you see a movie. If I can’t think of talking points for here, it’s the equivalent of not being able to come up with talking points during that dinner and therefore switching the subject to something like “Sure is hot outside, huh?”
I think that whole rambling paragraph basically sums up my feelings on Pineapple Express — I enjoyed it in the moment, but had nothing to really say about it afterward. It just didn’t have the same impact as their movies like 40-Year-Old Virgin and Superbad… or even a lot of the Undeclared episodes.
2 | The big budget comedy dilemma
In a lot of ways, the movie felt like someone said to the guys: “Here’s a big budget, what do you want to do with it?” and they thought to themselves, “Explosions! Car chases! Half-hour fight scenes!” Not that it’s a problem to do that… considering how none of that really properly fits the stoner comedy genre, I thought they weaved all that in pretty well.
Still, it pulled me out of the movie whenever I saw them do something that felt high budget for high budget’s sake.
3 | A non-stoner stoner comedy
I read a few reviews afterward and I noticed people were talking about how many long pot smoking scenes there were. Which surprised me, because I felt like Pineapple Express didn’t celebrate weed the way that most stoner comedies do. If anything, this movie actually had an undercurrent of “smoking pot leads to bad decisions and bad things” that you don’t ever see in marijuana movies.
4 | The length
Like all the Judd Apatow movies, this one felt too long. It clocked in at 111 minutes, which is almost a half-hour more than it needed. There were definite points where it dragged in the middle (like the scene in the woods)… and the fight scene at the end was way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way too long.
5 | Did it go too far?
The fight scene at the end also seemed to be the moment where the movie went too far. Until then, the mix of stoner comedy and fighting had worked pretty well, because it was all done so light-hearted and humorously. In the final fight scene, it got hardcore: People shooting and killing everyone in sight, angry and not funny fights, action taking precedent over comedy. And that genre busting changed the entire tenor of the movie… sadly, for the worse.
6 | The unexpected comic relief
I was surprised to see James Franco get to be the comedic lead with Seth Rogen more or less being the straight man here. (As opposed to Knocked Up, where Rogen was clearly the comedic center of the universe.) And I was even more surprised to see that James Franco was really strong — giving realistic depth to a character who’s high for the entire movie is no easy feat.
7 | Great reference
I think my favorite line of the movie was James Franco’s throwaway line of “You can stuff your sorries in a sack.” Those are the kinds of references that movies need more of.
8 | Danny McBride
I know that Apatow and Will Ferrell have anointed Danny McBride as the Next Big Thing in comedy, but I’m not sure if I’m sold yet. For now, when he talks, all I can think about is that slow-talking Southern guy who’s a recurring character in Family Guy.
9 | Get high like planes
So that MIA song about getting high like planes that they used in the trailer is everywhere now, huh? Except, for some reason, in the movie itself or on the soundtrack.
10 | The Apatow players
In my experience at work, when we’re making videos, whenever we need to cast people, our first thought always goes to actors and actresses we liked. We always try to bring them back because we think they’re funny, they do a good job, they’re easy to work with and we want to toss them work whenever we can.
It’s clear that Judd Apatow does the same thing, and I always like seeing who they bring back. It’s an interesting barometer of who’s cool to work with and who’s not. Like, they must be fans of Kevin Corrigan and Joe Lo Truglio from Superbad, because they were in this one… so was Craig Robinson from Knocked Up… and Bill Hader is in all of them at this point.
Katherine Heigl? Nowhere to be found.
11 | Maybe it’ll be better the second time
All this being said, I am planning to re-watch the movie one day. On first viewing, I found myself so caught up in what was going to happen that I couldn’t really focus on a lot of the comedic subtleties. Maybe it’s blind optimism, but I get the feeling that this movie will be much better and much funnier on subsequent viewings.
Overall, I’ll say that the Apatow/Rogan team is still putting out better comedy than anyone else… but this one didn’t quite hit their standard. Seven points out of 11.