I've been anticipating Pineapple Express for a really long time, especially after I first saw the Red Band trailer in early 2008 with MIA's Paper Planes featured pretty prominently. I actually almost saw a test screening of this back in February. On my way back from an art history museum visit I hung out in Union Square for a bit and they were handing out free passes to see this the next day outside the movie theater. When I came back the next day for the screening they apparently moved the showing to some weird theater over in Queens and I was really too late to catch any of it. Since then I've watched the trailer a lot more times than I probably should have and imagined the movie to be more about two slackers who get forced into having a purpose who would normally not want one at all.
Did it live up to the hype or my mental image of it? Sort of. Pineapple Express was much like the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie in that it had a lot of funny one-liners but nothing quotable enough to remain in the bowels of High School hallways or annoying people at frat parties. The film was a surprisingly violent mix between Hot Fuzz and Cheech & Chong with a bit of Judd Apatow's signature conversational improvised humor thrown in for good measure. While its not half as good as this year's other Judd Apatow produced comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall it was certainly a funny movie. In comparison to the ultra low-standards of the stoner comedy genre this could have a place as one of the few drug comedy films that I could actually stand.
The reason why the bar is so low for drug movies is that stoners are incredibly easy to please. Pretty much if you show the main characters doing some illegal substance at ANY portion of the movie it would immediately get their seal of approval. I can imagine this film living on in the poster section of an FYE or something because just about every scene has the main characters on some drug or another and for that reason I'm sure it will become a cult druggie classic alongside the terribly overrated Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. My rule on stoner films applies to just about everything, while I could understand how stoners could like films that glorify marijuanna use like How High, the Tenacious D movie and the Harold and Kumar series (amoung others) many stoners also love Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream and that's about as strong as an anti-drug movie can get.
Pineapple Express strays from the typical stoner comedy formula by trying to add some heart to its various preaching to the choir related antics. This comes off as half-realized as in one scene you'd see Seth Rogen in tears over his crumbling relationship with his high school aged girlfriend (which was played off as a joke 9 out of 10 times) and in the next they'd have a fight scene which would amount to Spider-man's James Franco getting kicked in the crotch. While this works when it plays off of the buddy-action movie archetype it seems lost when they switch to their action movie satire elements.
Ultimately, Pineapple Express was decent but it has a few very apparent flaws that really hold it back from being a generation defining movie like Seth Rogen and Eric Goldberg's Superbad. As someone who doesn't do drugs and was not under the influence of any substance when watching this movie I found a lot of scenes to be pretty funny, which considering I'm not in the "audience" that this movie really panders to I guess that's the biggest compliment this film can get. If you're a fan of Judd Apatow this film is still worth a look, it's certainly watchable which puts it leagues above the abysmal Drillbit Taylor, just don't go in expecting a cinematic revolution or anything.
Here's a quick run-down of some of the other movies I watched between now and my last blog post...
Hot Rod - I know this film ultimately was a huge failure in both the box office and with critics alike but I always kind of wanted to see this ever since I saw the trailer for it before Transformers. While it didn't look like high art or anything it looked like it had a few funny parts and it had Arrested Development's Will Arnett in there who's proving himself to be a bigger tool than Jason Bateman. This was originally written to be a Will Ferrel and despite not having any of the same writers as your standard Will Ferrel "sports movie" it definitely had the same sense of humor with our protagonist never successfully completing a stunt throughout the entire film. While it was not perfect and I found the movie perhaps a little too silly for its own good, it definitely wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting and was totally worth the 90 minutes or so I spent watching this when I downloaded it off of Veoh.
A Tale of Two Sisters - After seeing DVDs of this film included as a giveaway before a screening of Tokyo Gore Police at the New York Asian Film Festival I've been extremely interested in seeing this Korean horror flick. Like most successful Asian horror films, this one is getting an Americanized remake in early 2009 and I'm pretty sure the remakes will be more along the lines of The Grudge and The Host than the Ring. What really holds this film together is the terrific performances given by each of the members of the cast which really sold its ghost story premise to me. The scares here are mostly psychological and its commendable for how little gore there is in this movie with it being used to accentuate the scares as opposed to just grossing the audience out.
Be Kind Rewind - This is one I really wish I saw in theaters, while the actual "sweding" part of this movie was pretty miniscule in relation to the trailer the film here itself was good enough where it didn't really seem to matter. Be Kind Rewind had a great and quirky cast of characters but it still felt incredibly genuine taking place in only one city block. I'm not really a big fan of Michel Gondry but I kind of loved the very light brand of comedy in play where by the ending the movie gets very sentimental and all the humor kind of fades away into obscurity.
Drillbit Taylor - Had this not already been written by Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow I'd deem this as a PG13 watered down imitation of Superbad, the only difference being this one has Owen Wilson playing a body guard of sorts. While I do believe a lot of the awkwardness that made Superbad funny could be re-imagined in the form of a PG13 or made-for-TV movie the problem with this one is that it was still trying to be edgy while holding back from stepping on the few land mines that would guarantee an R-rating. While this was not completely terrible the main cast of kids felt kind of bratty and the bullies were portrayed with about as much depth as an episode of Doug. Owen Wilson was still very funny in this but he really didn't get too much screen time, it felt like they were really just using him to shoehorn ticket sales for an otherwise bland high school comedy film.
Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny - Dear god! If it weren't for the film's occasional catchy musical interludes, I'd be strongly tempted to give this a half a star. While theoretically I'd like this movie it felt more sloppy than it was surreal and it tried just a little too hard to be non-sensical. You'd be better off just listening to a Tenacious D album instead, they're a lot funnier.
Speed Racer - This was another one that I found the test screener of randomly uploaded onto Vreel. I was in the minority of people who actually was supportive of this movie since the trailer first emerged on the internet. The Wachowski brothers seemed to be making an adaptation of the English dubbed version of the TV series as opposed to a darker re-imagining of it. The real problem with the movie came with the length of the movie, clocking in at 2 and a half hours with most it that being dialogue. Had it been an hour shorter, it would be a lot easier to forgive the film for its flaws and praise it for its awesome race scenes but in the meantime it's simply not worth seeing. Maybe if you could rent it on DVD and skip to all the racing scenes it would be worth it but only if you pay less than a few dollars for it.