Pineapple Express = Stoner Gold

August 17, 2008 at 9:00 am | Posted in movies | 2 Comments

Dale: You’re gonna go off to college soon… and you’re gonna start listening to bands like Godspeed, You Black Emperor! and the Shins… and then you’ll dye your hair black and become a lesbian… and then you’ll dump me… so go ahead and have fun!

Pineapple Express
AMC Stony Brook – August 15, 2008

Seth Rogen has become the next go-to funny guy of Hollywood. It seems that instead of succumbing to typecasting, he has decided to embrace his personality and make films that he himself would want to see. After all, he and his writing partner Evan Goldberg are responsible for the teen comedy hit, Superbad. Bringing their experiences with “certain extra-curricular activities” in a fictitious yet hilarious odyssey was enjoyable, but also challenging. As quoted in a recent interview, “Pineapple Express is the highest budget stoner comedy ever made, but it’s also the lowest budget action movie ever made.”

Pineapple Express (sober) Trailer

The plot summary is simple: A pothead named Dale witnesses murder. He then involves his drug dealer Saul by leaving traceable evidence at the scene. Somehow, the situation escalates to a mass drug war, catalyzed by the mishaps of these two gentleman. Dale’s high-school aged girlfriend (as referenced in the headlined quote) and her family are forced to flee from a “meet the parents” dinner into hiding. Car chases and hunt-downs galore! All the while, the pothead and the drug-dealer become best friends. Most of which you can surmise from the trailer. It’s as much as I can say without blowing the movie… which I don’t want to do quite yet. Without giving anything away, I will say that all I wanted at the end of the movie was for Dale to show up at the Days Inn motel door and say “You’re good. You can go home now.” (It may be a Ferris Bueller cliche, but it works. Seth – if you are reading this, maybe my DVD extended ending wish will come true!)

What really made the film for me was the dialogue. The character interaction did not feel hokey, contrived, or even dumbed-down like some other gems of the stoner genre. Not to diss on Harold and Kumar, but somehow Seth Rogan and James Franco seemed to be – I don’t know – more developed? (or maybe just further along in their drug-using years.) These guys make H&K look like purely recreational tokers! The idea of a functioning stoner by contrast to someone who has clearly gone past the threshold to watching 227 and recreating an Native American Teepee community on their bed? Well, it’s all relative I guess… as well as good/funny in different ways.

One film reviewer stated that for every two winning jokes, one would fall flat, causing the movie to trip and constantly play catch up with itself. I wholeheartedly disagree. The humor kept the plot moving and propelled the story with just the right amount of insanity and dubiousness. Ha ha… get it? Doobieous?? Oh, nevermind. When facetiously asked by Judd Apatow (who worked with Rogen on 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and with both him and Franco on the short-lived TV series Freaks and Geeks) about his “process” and what kind of research he did to create the illusion of being under the influence of marijuana, to great laughter and applause Seth Rogen replied, “Um, I’m from Vancouver. It’s different over there. Kinda lax laws, I guess you would say. And yeah, I smoke weed. So what?” (Watch video) The Pineapple Express script was written back in 2001, but it wasn’t until Rogen had appeared in a couple of Apatow’s films that the script was considered for approval. Interestingly enough, the dialogue was treated by the writing team as the last piece of the puzzle. Goldberg and Rogen spent a lot of time outlining the plot: for instance, if they worked for two months on the script, 6 weeks were spent on the outline and only two weeks on the dialogue. “We don’t care, as long as the emotions are there and the story is structured right… We always just want to have it seem as natural as possible and we don’t pretend that we can write exactly how people speak to one another at all times. We just love to have people kind of do what they want.”

This organic and collaborative approach obviously agreed with director David Gordon Green, who hit it off with them right away. Like Judd Apatow, Green gives his actors room to improvise, but he emphasizes performance over line delivery. “Dave’s direction is a lot more attitude-based, and he doesn’t worry about changing the lines that much. But he’ll give you a direction: ‘Say it like a robot. Say it like a drunk robot. Now say it like you’ve got ear wax in your mouth.’ He’s much more a performance-based director.” (source) Though I am not familiar with Green’s work, I may give a couple of his films a try now. (Apparently, he was a producer on the indie film, Great World of Sound.)

Fighting the preconceived notions about the film was the biggest challenge. Even with the full lexicon of stoner films through the years, there is still a stigma about displaying marijuana on screen. By comparison to other genres such as the horror/torture movement of the Hostel and Saw series, one would think that there wouldn’t or shouldn’t be as much backlash for this type of subject matter, if done respectfully of course. Even the trailer had to be edited so that the smoke did not indicate the joint. Who they think they are fooling by advertising altered footage from what will eventually be seen in the movie? And what they gain by it, I’ll never know. I wonder if there’s a conspiracy in Hollywood to cover up the most obvious part of the movie, so that parents will let there teenagers see it. Curious…

Watch the Rated R “Red Band” trailer

Then again, this film’s predecessors are not meant to be revered with works such as Citizen Kane. In fact, the spirit of the genre throws a lot of caution to the wind, some end up whimsical, and some downright cheesy. Rogen adds this point: “We knew that there was a really bad version of the film. When I first heard the idea for it, I thought… this isn’t going to be good,” Rogen shared on Reel Talk. Apparently, the original concept was pitched by none other than Judd Apatow. “Judd had a kind of loose idea for a weed action movie. We thought, that’s a strange notion. Then we kind of realized there hadn’t really been a weed movie that was that good and actually functioned as a real movie. So we thought, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a really good weed movie, [better yet] an action-packed weed movie, and we kind of just went from there.”

James Franco and Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express

James Franco and Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express

Casting for Pineapple Express did not exactly pan out as planned; Seth Rogen was originally slated to play the drug dealer Saul. However, when James Franco read for the film, “he brought the character to a whole other level.” In another one on one interview, Franco views Pineapple Express as a love story, alluding to the blossoming of Dale and Saul’s friendship. In response, Rogen mirrors the beginning of said relationship in his own life, in so far as he’s had a few annoying weed dealers that he doesn’t want to hang out with. Due to Franco’s dashing good looks, they tried to dirty him up for fear of portraying an unrealistically “GQ looking” drug dealer. Unfortunately, when Rogen consulted some females about this decision, they revealed that Franco had just become a new version of hot, expanding his appeal to completely different set of ladies. I have to say that Franco is refreshing in this role. A departure from the clean-cut friend turned villain in the Spiderman trilogy, I look forward to seeing what future roles he takes on.

Though mad love is rightfully bestowed upon Seth Rogen who wrote, starred in and also produced, the underdog of this film is definitely Craig Robinson as Matheson. Infamous for his role as Darryl on NBC’s “The Office”, Robinson does an outstanding job as the tough but sensitive and somewhat unbalanced henchman. His relationship with Budlofsky (notably portrayed by Kevin Corrigan) expands the film’s emotional range to almost a Pulp Fiction level. Major props to you, Craig! Also Danny McBride, who based on pictures of him, completely disappeared into the role of “Red” in the ‘Wow, that was him?’ kind of way. Other cameos include a severely mellowed Rosie Perez whose character is partners in crime with drug lord played by Gary Cole, forever etched in my mind as the parody of Mike Brady or Bill Lumbergh in Office Space.  (SPOILER: I have to say I enjoyed the fact that they started out just as partners in crime and not a couple. It was just about doing business and getting off on the power trip together. Therefore, their kiss during the fight scene kind of annoyed me because it negated that whole possibility of them just being evil partners. boooo. 😦 )

A lot of chatter revolving around whether Pineapple Express would dethrone the Dark Knight after its successful four week box-office reign… My answer to that is: Who cares? TDK is quickly becoming one of the top grossing films of all time (if not, the top grossing film of all time as long as it stays in theater long enough. I remember Titanic being in theaters for FOREVER, so keep it up Batman!)

Another thing is that technically the film was released on a Wednesday, which seems puzzling to me. According to Getthepicture.net, the theory/reasoning behind the Wednesday premiere of Pineapple Express is that it’s original release date (last Friday, August 8th) was in direct competition to the 2008 Olympic Opening Ceremonies. Ha! As if the target audience for this film was going to stay home on a Friday night and spark up to Beijing’s larger than life performance spectacle… Hello? That’s what Tivos are for!

So now with Superbad and Pineapple Express under their belt, there is already talk of a sequel. Though Rogen and Goldberg valiently refused to allow the studio to produce a sequel to Superbad, their efforts gave way to even better and unique concept:

James Franco Teases at Superbad/Pineapple Express Crossover

That’s right! A combined Superbad sequel/Pineapple prequel!  James Franco reveals that studio bosses have been leaning on Rogen/Goldberg to write a sequel to Superbad, even before it was released in theaters. Franco tells MTV, “They really didn’t want to write a sequel. And so, the [compromise] is to do a Superbad/Pineapple Express crossover, an unprecedented crossover movie with two directors, Greg Motolla and David Gordon Green, each directing half of the movie and somehow getting these characters together, which doesn’t make sense at all, but could work. I’m guessing that Saul could sell the Superbad characters something and the kids could get into some trouble and we’d help them out of it. Seth plays characters in both movies, so somehow we’d have to kill one of them off.” Franco is currently going for his MFA in writing and looks to one day write and produce his own films, filling the large example set by Seth Rogan.

Do I hear Parent Trap? Or maybe they could pull a Samantha Who? and the cop from Superbad gets hit on the head, suffers from amnesia and lo and behold… he is Dale Denton! An ex-cop could become a process server; that could totally happen. Just a few soap opera ideas… lol.

Fact: Pineapple Express is the name for the ultimate weed substance used in the movie. According to Seth Rogan, the name Pineapple Express comes from a weather system that affects the Pacific-Northwest where warm air comes up from Hawaii and causes unseasonably warm winters.

After being approached by Seth Rogan, Huey Lewis loved the idea and composed this track for the movie. Rogen requested a song in the band’s beloved 80’s style, particularly similar to  “The Power of Love” which became the one of the theme songs for Back to the Future (the other was “Back In Time” written specifically for the movie).

Overall, this was a great time. Can’t wait for the crossover!

RATING: 4stars (technically 4.5 of 5… Haven’t decided if I’ll own it yet. Have to see the DVD features)
Recommendation: If you are into that sort of thing, then definitely see it. It can be seen sober too!

Can I just take a minute and say how god awful the poster design is?? I would have much preferred a derivitive 60’s psychedelic design than this flat, lifeless, non-poster. Better luck next time, fellas.

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2 Comments »

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  1. first half of Pineapple Express was about half as good as Knocked Up; the second half was almost as bad as Freddy God Fingered

  2. Good day! I know this is kinda off topic however , I’d figured I’d ask.
    Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest writing
    a blog post or vice-versa? My blog discusses a lot of the same subjects as yours and I believe we could greatly benefit from each other.
    If you’re interested feel free to send me an email. I look forward to hearing
    from you! Fantastic blog by the way!


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