Yeah, I didn’t see this coming either.
No one wanted Pineapple Express to be great more than me. Ever since I heard the casting of Seth Rogen and James Franco in a “stoner-action-comedy” I was sold, and when the trailer debuted? Every line and dance move was hilarious, and was only amplified by the most appropriate song choice in trailer history, M.I.A.’s Paper Planes.
But now, after viewing, I’m sad to say that Pineapple Express is the most disappointing movie since Spiderman 3. Though there are humorous moments, the entire project comes across as just purely lazy. The comedy drifts away from the heart-and-soul smartness of Superbad or Knocked Up and delves headfirst into slapstick and cheese.
I understand that the movie is meant to be a stoner flick, but that doesn’t mean you should have to be skyscraper high to enjoy it. And sober as I was in the theater, I found myself merely grinning at jokes that are meant to have you on the floor laughing. It’s a classic case of “all the funny parts are in the trailers” with very little saved for the actual movie. This isn’t usually the case in a Rogen-written, Apatow-produced film, as they usually have more than enough wit to fill an entire script, but it seems they might have been smoking a little too much this time around.
The cast is another looming problem for Express, with the exception of a dumbfoundingly brilliant James Franco as Seth Rogen’s perma-stoned dealer Saul, every other character is either inherently dislikeable, completely one dimensional, or both. Rogen, as process server Dale Denton, is almost a complete character, but more often than not you’ll be thinking, “Man this guy’s kind of a huge asshole.” He’s a slacker yes, but not like the chubby, loveable goof he was in Knocked Up.
The rest of the cast might as well be cardboard cutouts. Saul’s supplier Red (played by an infantile Danny McBride) could be a semi-retarded character out of Napoleon Dynamite and his stupidly slapstick ability to sustain mortal injury is directly taken from Austin Powers. Gary Cole plays a vicious drug lord, but the role could have been filled by anyone who knows how to yell. Rosie Perez, Kevin Corrigan and Craig Robinson fill out the hit squad roster, but do little more than constantly bitch and have an unquenchable need to pistol whip people. The whole enemy ensemble could pretty much be taken out of an episode of Magnum P.I. as the characters have the same amount of depth.
Another of the film’s flaws is the hammering to death of the “bro-mance” formula which apparently reached it peak in Superbad. But unlike that film, which featured high schoolers talking and acting exactly like high schoolers, this film isn’t grounded in reality in the least, and therefore forfeit’s most of its “emotion” cards at the door. Saul and Dale become friends. Bad things happen. Dale yells at Saul even though nothing’s his fault. Saul leaves and gets kidnapped. Dale saves him and everyone is BFFs (they literally use that phrase 30 times in the last 10 minutes). Is it really obligatory to have a plot arc like this, which has been used in every single buddy story since Bert first bitched out Ernie on Sesame Street?
I understand that making a buddy action comedy is fairly difficult to pull off effectively if Jackie Chan is not involved. But the amount of laziness present in Pineapple Express is especially frustrating, given the high expectations set by possibly the greatest comedic trailer of the last decade. It’s reasonable to assume that some Apatow projects like Talladega Nights and Drillbit Taylor aren’t going to be gold, but this movie looked to be in the tradition of 40 Year Old Virgin. Unfortunately, it’s just another dumb stoner (or dumb action) flick that you’ll see on Comedy Central at 4 PM on a Wednesday. But hey, at least you might be stoned.
2 out of 5 stars
At least we’ll always have the trailer.