Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. There are weeks where it sort of feels like Ain’t It Apatow News right now, but I think that’s just because Judd Apatow and his collaborators are kicking some unholy ass at the moment. Case in point: they’ve started test screening PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, and the first time around, we got in about a bajillion reviews. This time, I got in three solid ones, and I want to share them with you. Here’s the first:
Caught PINEAPPLE EXPRESS tonight in Woodland Hills. Won't come out until August of next year so they've still got a lot of time to tinker with it. This is a good thing. The potential is there but they haven't found their movie yet. It's kind of sprawling and kind of messy but even in its infantile state, it's very, very funny. I'm sure different cuts will be tested until they reach a perfect median, much like what happened with KNOCKED UP and SUPERBAD both of which seemed to be testing in Sherman Oaks every other week. Here's where I'm coming from: huge fan of Apatow & Co., even bigger fan of this film's director, David Gordon Green. I think he's the best contemporary filmmaker. Period. With PE, he handles the comedy and action competently, but I was a little disappointed he didn't leave more of a mark. He smartly stays out of the way of the actors but his directing was muted, no question about it. Look, the guy's branching out. I respect it, I'm not one of those people who's screaming sellout or anything, but I would have welcomed more of his trademark stylistic flourishes. If this does well financially and he continues working in the mainstream, I hope he takes more chances, plays things less safe. In any case, he does elicit Rogen's best performance to date. In this he's the straight man, pretty much reacting to Franco's lovable buffoon. Franco's the real revelation here. Always does good work, but other than FREAKS AND GEEKS hasn't had a chance to play comedy... or against type. Here he's a good-hearted, dirty stoner with aspirations of becoming a civic engineer. His hero is Joseph Strauss, the guy who built the Golden Gate Bridge. He also sells pot to Rogen's character, a process server who loves pot... a lot. By the end of the film (possible spoiler), we discover that he loves pot, perhaps even more than his abnormally beautiful and awesome girlfriend, played by the chick who plays Mandy Lane in ALL THE BOY'S LOVE... you get it. The relationship between Rogen and Mandy Lane is the weakest subplot in the film, so when he ditches her in the end, while it's hard to believe, you really don't care. By that point, the movie has stopped taking itself seriously anyway, so things like character arcs and plot tie-ups are irrelevant. As for the story itself, it's a lot like SUPERBAD just with older dudes who also smoke pot. Instead of two high school buddies entangled in a night of innocent mishaps spurred on by the quest to buy alcohol, this is two older buddies entangled in a night of more violent and serious mishaps spurred on by a drug-war. Basically, Rogen witnesses a murder and goes to Franco for help (why he goes to Franco, who's barely his friend at this point is never explained) and the two are on the run from the drug dealer and his henchmen who know Rogen witnessed the crime. There are some shootouts, a couple of car chases, and one gut-busting fist-fight with Gordon Green alumnus, Danny McBride (aka Bust-Ass). Negatives: The prologue. Another early reviewer said the same thing. Unnecessary to the rest of the story and not funny enough to merit it's inclusion. The time spent in the woods. Goes on forever. The second act in general lags at some points as Rogen and Franco riff off each other. Everything involving Rogen's relationship with Mandy Lane, especially the awkward stuff with her family. The dinner scene didn't get too many laughs at the screening and had people cringing. I hate to say it but I think Mandy Lane's story thread could be cut entirely, which would help with another problem: the length. Too long! Positives: Performances. Jokes. Danny McBride. The last scene at the diner. And finally...THE VIOLENCE. This flick is balls-to-the-walls violent. Kicks Die Hard 4.0 back into PG-13 purgatory where it belongs. This is hard R. A foot gets blown into blood sprinkles. Rosie Perez gets toppled by a car. There are moments where Rogen plays the action hero well. I hope GREEN HORNET has serious ambitions because it was cool seeing such a non-leading man type wield a gun and kick some ass. He pulled it off, like Hoffman in STRAW DOGS. It's kind of a spoof of action movies but doesn't exactly make that it's aim. They seemed to just enjoy avoiding action movie cliches instead of making fun of them. Best way to sum it up is by describing this gag: They've just stolen a cop car and are being chased. The front windshield gets shot at, creating those glass webbings. Franco's driving and it's impossible to see through it. "What do I do?" he asks. Rogen replies, "Don't they usually just kick it in?" He is, of course, referring to the countless action movie heroes who kick the glass and shatter it. Franco shrugs and kicks at the windshield BUT... his foot gets stuck in the hole he just kicked in. Now he's got to drive with his leg stuck in the windshield. For the most part, it plays out that way. Real and funny. Even when it gets absurd, nothing about it feels movie-ish, even the production design of the underground pot lair which in the hands of a less intelligent director could have looked like Willy Wonka's candy factory. So you're with it... from beginning to end. Commercially, it could be a tough sell. But with Rogen and Apatow's names alone, they'll make their budget back. Then... cult status beckons. Sincerely, Uncle Leland
I was on set the day they shot the gag with Franco putting his foot through that windshield, and it took a lot of takes to get it right. Once they did, though, Green immediately knew that was the one. There was something about that take that felt completely natural and real, and it doesn’t surprise me to hear that’s the tone the film gets most right. Here’s one of our regular reviewers, J-Skell, with his take on the movie:
Hey Drew, J-Skell here. So I got to get into a screening of THE PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, and boy was I freakin’ stoked. I'm such a huge Apatow/Rogen fan and SUCH a huge David Gordon Green fan. I had no idea what to expect. Let's just say I loved it. I saw Apatow at the screening and almost said something to him afterwards but lost my opportunity. Is it me or did this dude save film comedy? Anywho, hope all is well man. Thanks a ton, and take it easy for all us sinners. And onto the review: THE PINEAPPLE EXPRESS Holy man bits. So when the hell is the Apatow company going to fail? Thus far they are five for five (ANCHORMAN, THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, TALLADEGA NIGHTS, KNOCKED UP, SUPERBAD) and now I can officially say they're six for six. I had no idea what to think when I heard that David Gordon Green was joining the ranks to direct an action stoner comedy, The dude is being groomed as the next Malik and he's doing an Apatow flick with Seth Rogen and James Franco!?!?!. I had loved GEORGE WASHINGTON and ALL THE REAL GIRLS, but they were so different from Apatow that I had no idea how he'd tackle it. Thus we enter, THE PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. Oddly enough it starts with a gorgeous little black and white prelude and you totally see Green's look in the film, then the moment the first jokes start hitting from bill hader, it's the Rogen/Goldberg tone all the way. I'm going to try and not ruin any of the jokes, but I could not stop laughing, there isn't a single lull in the film. The film is really about a relationship between two dudes. The two dudes being Seth Rogen and James Franco. Seth is Dale the lazy service summoner and pot smoker and James is Saul, his slow but amiable dealer. It perfectly nails the dealer/dealee relationship and anyone who has ever been in that position will understand the dynamic perfectly. Saul thinks this dude is his best friend and is constantly trying to get him to hang out. He's not a bad guy he just doesn't get that Dale wouldn't want to hang out with dealer. But once shit hits the fan and Dale witnesses a murder, they get slung into the ensuing mess together. And, for lack of a better phrase, things get fucking nuts. Rogen is settling nicely into his leading role status. It appears Knocked Up has given him the Carrell status since the entire audience cheered the second he showed up on screen. He does nice work here as the underachiever dating a high school girl, who gets in way over his head. His relationship with his girlfriend doesn't have the emotional honesty of Knocked Up or anything, but it still plays for laughs and does play into some ethos/pathos on his part. But the special performance here is James Franco. I've been waiting awhile for this. On "Freaks and Geeks" he was so fantastic as the dumb, charming, yet somewhat sincere burnout who could flash a smile and get anything he wanted. And since then he's really been misused in my mind (or just stretching away from his range but I don't think so). So finally Apatow brought him back into the fold and he freaking nails it. Saul is incredibly sweet and naïve, with a host of delicate mannerisms that turn this from a schtick into a full-blown performance. I always hate saying this, but yeah, he's the heart of the flick, even though just looking at him makes you want to take a shower. Oh yeah, and special points to Ed Begley Jr. showing up ready to play. Good show. The most surprising aspect of the film was the violence. I forgot how all those 80's movies used to funny AND bloody as hell. Here we return to form and there's some really great stuff here. I bet David Gordon Green was having a blast with this flick: flipping cars, knifing dudes, shooting off appendages. The action kind of reminded me of HOT FUZZ a bit in that regard, but there's a different tone to it. It's definitely not as self-conscious or stylized. The little card for the screening said something like "half-baked meets reservoir dogs!" and no that's not what the movie is, but yeah it's f'ing violent. Two scenes in particular stand out 1) the completely hilarious brawl in Danny McBride's character's house and 2) the climatic battle scene. You can tell that Green was really up on his action language but he still did it a little different and his own way. I really dug it. This was an early cut so of course it's long and feels a little long too. But I don't want them to lose a single scene. They should shave a few jokes here and there (the scene with the car in the woods takes awhile for one example) but they got the shape of this one down brother. I hate calling movies "stoner" comedies cause to me that can be pretty much every good comedy. It's also a "not stoner" comedy which means if you're not high you can still laugh your fucking ass off at this thing. But yeah there's a shit load of weed or weed references in this movies so if that makes it qualify, then I won't protest. The last thing I'll say is two words: DANNY MCBRIDE. Believe the hype ladies and gents. He's the real deal hollyfield. His humor is completely "left field" but the great thing is his delivery is too. He never stresses a joke or a line, it just keeps sliding out of him and he's already onto the next line and you're not even realizing how funny the shit he's saying is. I felt like watching the movie again just so I could watch his performance again cause I feel like I missed a ton. ENJOY! J-Skell
And here’s the last one, just as enthusiastic as the face-to-face reactions I’ve been hearing from readers I’ve met at various events:
Tonight I was able to attend a screening of the new Judd Apatow production "The Pineapple Express." Much like the upcoming "Super Bad" this film was written by the amazingly talented Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg. I went into this knowing the basic plot, Pothead Process Server (Rogen) witnesses a murder while on the job and drops a doobie made of a special type of weed, called Pineapple Express, he runs to his dealer (James Franco) and the two go on the run. So I went in expecting another comedy in the vein of "Knocked Up" and "Super Bad" but to my delight I got something much better. The movie opens in black & white as two men pull up to a rock in the middle of the desert. The two men lift up the rock to reveal a passage underground which takes them to a secret government testing facility. Here we see a group of scientists with a test subject (Bill Hader) who is smoking a joint and being asked how he feels. After listening to the response one of the two men, a general, makes a call saying they've decided the substance is "ILLEGAL!" and demands the project terminated. The film then cuts to present day as Dale (Rogen) is driving around in his car, smoking pot, and dressing up in different uniforms to serve court papers on unsuspecting citizens. Dale then goes to see his girlfriend, at her high school, where she is a student. After being convinced to come to her place for dinner to meet her parents the next night, Dale heads to met up with Saul his pot dealer (Franco). After buying some "Pineapple Express" from Saul, the only dealer in town who has it, Dale heads to serve some more papers to Ted Jones (The Wonderful Gary Cole) but as he's sitting there lighting up a police car pulls up behind him and Rosie Perez gets out and runs in Ted's place. As Dale sits there he hears a gunshot and turns in time to see Ted and the cop kill an Asian man. Dale takes off, leaving his half smoked joint in the street. Ted runs into the street where he finds the joint and takes a puff of it. Dale returns to Saul's, quickly realizing that his half smoked joint will lead the villains directly to him. Dale and Saul go on the run, first to the the woods, then to Dale's supplier Red, the only man who can give them up to Ted. Unfortunately Ted's goons (played by The Office's Craig Robinson and Super Bad's Kevin Corrigan) have already gotten to Red and a hilarious fight breaks out as Dale realizes they've been betrayed. Dale and Saul find themselves on the run, in a car chase, arrested, kidnapped, and finally in a huge absurdly comedic, explosive finale that ranks up there with "Hot Fuzz". The movie's got just about everything you could want, Comedy, Action, Blood, guns, explosions, and lots and lots of weed. Rogen and Goldberg deliver an amazing action packed comedy that feels different than anything thats come before it. The acting is great all around with the exception of Amber Heard who plays Rogen's girlfriend. Her introduction falls completely flat and the rest of her part just seemed okay. But there are some great performance by everyone involved, including some great cameos from James Remar and Ed Begley Jr. Rogen and Franco are perfect playing off of each other as they have real chemistry. Also I must mention one of my favorite scenes, the car chase. I've often wondered why no one just slams on their brakes when they are in a high speed chase, and finally this movie addresses just that very thing. Overall I loved the movie and will definitely be seeing it again when it comes out next year. If you post this call me "William B. Pordobell"