Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride

Director: David Gordon Green

Screenplay: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, Judd Apatow

Cinematography: Tim Orr

Original Score: Graeme Revell 

Running Time: 110 Mins.

Pineapple Express is the eighth film to be either produced, written or directed by Judd Apatow in the last two years, thats a lot by anyone’s standards. Not a problem, you may think, but when quantity over-rides quality, you have to wonder if it’s time Apatow and the Apatow Frat Pack took two steps back and looked at their output. It’s not that they have made any truly bad films its just that all of this years efforts including Step Brothers, Walk Hard, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Drillbit Taylor have all been deeply average. In fact following the comedy gold of the likes of Knocked Up, Anchorman and The 40 Year Old Virgin we have come to expect a lot from these guys, I just hope they haven’t blown their load too early on in their career’s because, once again, with Pineapple Express, I felt deeply short changed.

First things first though, I had extremely ‘high’ hopes (pun intended) for Pineapple Express, after all, it stars and is co-written by comedy man of the moment Seth Rogen, and has a potentially very funny premise, two pot-heads get caught up in a murder and go on the run encountering many an action scene. Rogen has been quoted as saying that this was made with harking back to the action movies of the 80’s in mind i.e. 48 Hours, Beverley Hills Cop and Tango And Cash. In truth it’s more like Dumb And Dumber’s distant cousin, albeit with more violence and less humour. And in a nutshell that’s the main flaw of the film, it mistakes people high on drugs and messing about for humour, there’s a possibilty im missing the point here and it’s supposed to be watched whilst high, but for me, it did nothing. 

Occasionally, however, it raised a titter suggesting at what could have been, most notably in scenes largely shown in the trailer (always a key flaw in a comedy). One factor rises from the ashes, and that is James Franco shining throughout, though not nearly as much as he could have done, given better material. Proving to be both likeable and the funniest thing on show, he exudes an abundance of charm from a chracter that could so easily have been annoying in the wrong hands. Alongside Franco is Rogen, he’s not bad, but is simply playing the same character as his affable loser from Knocked Up without the responsibilities of fatherhood, and I could swear in each film he sounds more an more like Fozzy Bear! Rounding out the cast is Danny McBride, through this and Tropic Thunder he is gaining great credibilty for himself, and I can see why, like Franco he has the likeable loser down to a T. The thing is he is relegated to merely fighting in that stupid ott comedy way with other cast members. A brawl between McBride, Franco and Rogen should be a slap-stick riot but instead feels stale, and pales in comparison to the very similar comedy fights in the equally uninspiring Step Brothers.

So the comedy is lacking and the fighting uninspired, at least theres the action to fall back on…right?

Well no actually, it feels totally out of place, and I think a lot of this has to do with the director. David Gordon Green is a man best known for brooding, almost arthouse-like dramas such as Undertow. If the guys wanted a film harking back to the action flicks of the 80’s why hire green? There are many great action directors out there, so many average ones even, why get someone who is incapable of action full stop! I have no doubt that in the right hands that said scenes could have felt punchy and retro, but sadly neither of these criterias is met. In fact when the action does kick in about an hour into the film it seems totalloy shoe-horned in, is shot with an arty haze and seems desperate when the ott violence is used, soemthing which Hot Fuzz just about managed to do successfully.

The car chase is on the cusp of ticking all the boxes, beginning with Franco covering the windcreen in slushies, and at least manages to raise a few laughs, but loses its way and its all downhill from there with the film climaxing in a shoot-out/extended fight scene that really does seem to have been cut in from a different film, all that and I haven’t even mentioned the cardborad cut out/under-developed villains or the high-school girlfriend plot that includes a very funny phone call but adds very little else. Because or in spite of, it’s hard to tell, all the flaws, the running time becomes an issue, dragging in parts with seemingly needless scenes (the whole episode in the woods is pointles) adding up for a badly paced experience, a problem that Superbad also suffered from, except that had the savior of being consistantly funny!  

VERDICT

The Apatow stable really are losing their way, hopefully this is a blip rather than a consistancy, but Pineapple Express is their weakest effort yet. Such a shame given the talent involved, It hits neither the comedy heights or action sensibilities it strives for. The combination of a bad choice of director, and a script allowing for none of the heart that the Apatow films so often mark themselves out as better with. On the plus side Franco does show he’s much more than the brooding Spiderman villain though proving that should you need a likeable comedy lead…he’s the next big thing!

Then again, maybe it’s an A+ film if your perpetually high, the titular Pineapple Express might literally be for you! 

 

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