You’d do better to rent Harold & Kumar again.

The trailer for Pineapple Express was the best trailer I saw for any summer movie this year. It gave you the gist of the movie without giving too much away, made genius use of the brilliant song “Paper Planes” by M.I.A., and conveyed a message that this would be your super-naughty-yet-somehow-feel-good comedy of the season.

Oh, if only the movie itself had been as good as that trailer. Alas, not even close.

Because Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the boys behind the perfect Superbad, also penned this screenplay, I expected a lot. The movie is at times very funny, and stars two insanely likable leading men in Rogen and James Franco. But alongside those truly funny bits come strangely unfunny, uncomfortable ones, and in the end while I still adore Rogen and Franco, I can’t say I have the same love for their characters. Truly, the whole time I couldn’t figure out why I was supposed to care about these guys.

As we learned from the aforementioned trailer, Rogen is Dale, a process server who witnesses a murder and ends up on the run alongside his Spicoli-esque pot dealer, Saul. They’re an odd couple whose burgeoning friendship provides most of the funniest moments of the film, yet their characters never feel real the same way that the protagonists of the other Apatow-crew films have. And besides their desire not to get killed by drug kingpins and/or dirty cops, they don’t have anything they’re really striving for. Characters without goals are boring characters. Their adventures bounce along well enough, though, until things begin to spiral into some honestly bizarre scenes of gun violence, explosions, and general mayhem.

I get the feeling that at some point during pre-production on this movie, someone viewed Hot Fuzz while stoned and thought “hey, we could do that—we could totally mix traditional comedy with hardcore violence and get away with it.” However, Hot Fuzz is a stunning work of ultimate precision, combining elements of spoof, character-driven comedy, and action films into something like a whole new genre. Compared to that, Pineapple Express is a mess.

(Warning: begin rant). Being violent just for the sake of being violent has never appealed to me. Violent set pieces can be fantastic, but if they do nothing for the story, that’s enough to distract me from really enjoying the action. That’d be why I love Kill Bill 2 but only like the first one in context of the second; why the ridiculous explosions at the beginning of Casino Royale are perfectly fine while destroying the highway in the opening of Bad Boys 2 is not; why any sequence from the Bourne films or the steam room knife fight scene in Eastern Promises are so much more than just an excuse for guys to beat the crap out of each other. Your action scene has to be a logical step in the plot, or provide character development, or you’re doing something wrong. And it had better feel like there are some stakes involved! Any scene in any movie where there isn’t truly something on the line for one of the characters (besides his life—hello, we know your main character is going to survive) is a failure of storytelling. The tension in the scene from Superbad where Seth tries to steal beer from the sketchy house party trumps any sort of attempt at tension in the entire hostage sequence of Pineapple Express, during which people actually get shot repeatedly! Guess which one is the far better-written movie?

(Ok, rant over, mostly). Pineapple Express is the sort of movie that makes me mad because it’s not terrible, but all I can focus on are the parts they should have done better. It makes me want to say to the Apatow boys the same thing I’ve been saying about M. Night Shyamalan since The Village: SLOW DOWN. You don’t have to put out movies like they’re coming down a conveyor belt. You’ve got plenty of talent, but you need to take a minute to ask yourselves questions such as “Does this make any damn sense? Does it fit into the world of our movie or are we just doing it because we think it would be cool?” We want things to make sense and be cool. I know you can do it, Apatowians, you’ve done it before! And I will be there for your next movie, cuz I still love you.


1 Response to “You’d do better to rent Harold & Kumar again.”

  1. 1 patty August 25, 2008 at 11:56 am

    i wasn’t expecting the budget for pineapple express to be so huge! that movie was just crazy.

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