Saturday, August 09, 2008


Inside of Saul's (James Franco) apartment there is a poorly tacked-to-the-wall poster of Howard Hawks's Scarface. It's a fitting example of stoner interior decorating, but it also represents the lack of enthusiasm and respect that director David Gordon Green and screenwriters Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen have for genre film making. Like much of modern pop culture, Pineapple Express is a mashing-up of styles instead of fine fusion.

Methinks some of Apatow's crew have become so confident in their success that they've eased into cruise control. Take, for instance, Rogen and Goldberg's script for last year's Superbad. It was an accurate and honest depiction of blind desperation under the hammer of male teenage horniness. The brilliance of Michael Cera and Jonah Hill carried Superbad, yes, but the script had a vulnerability to it that made the boobies and vagina jokes relatable. In contrast, the bonding tree scene in Pineapple Express rings false. Rogen writes his character as jaded, bitter, done.

David Gordon Green has always been feckless when it comes to affections. Prior to Pineapple Express, he survived on a legion of followers that ate up his emotions-at-arms-length approach to film making. But Gordon's reach for portraits of small town eccentricity always ended up as bastardized versions of southern stereotypes. This condescension shows up in Pineapple Express when two unwanted customers interrupt Saul and Dale's (Rogen) chill time. Dressed in jean shorts and sporting a pube mustache this trailer-park caricature is meant to stir up chuckles. Worse, when the pair leave, Gordon Green makes sure his partner's rat tail gets into frame for a parting shot.

As weary as Pineapple Express is, at least it finally cements Green as the mediocre director he's always been. I wish him well on this new career(ist) path, but it'd make me sleep better if his die hard loyalists would finally fess up to that "visionary" fallacy started by George Washington... and then file their Criterion edition DVD of that film behind the Chasing Amy one.

Thankfully, James Franco and Danny McBride block out Gordon Green and roll on their own instincts to deliver tiny doses of comic relief that (maybe) saves Pineapple Express from being the worst film of the year. McBride, who was excellent in the superior manchild comedy Hot Rod, is a Will Ferrell type box-office balloon waiting to burst, and James Franco could be the male equivalent of Anna Faris if he'd just back away from the pot humor and choose from a variety of roles.

By film's end, the pot humor, gangster play, and "chase film" sequences have been ground down into a neo-stoner action comedy so tedious that you wonder if Dale's referring to the film he's in when he tells a call-in radio host that "smoking pot makes bad movies better". Fine, but what about us sober viewers? Tacked to the wall, left hanging... just how I imagine that Scarface poster will be when Saul eventually moves out.


Yih said...

i'm glad to see someone else isn't all gung-ho about these movie.

nick plowman said...

mmm, I still kinda want to see this though. Maybe. lol

Fox said...

Yih - the thing is, I was kinda gung-ho when I saw the trailer. I had a poor track record with DGG films prior, but I thought the trailer was pretty funny (specifically anything with Franco in it). Daniel at Getafilm was was right when he first noted that the trailer is better than the film.

Nick - I would recommend you see it, selfishly, b/c I'd like to read your take on it. :) But, I would rarely tell someone that they shouldn't see something b/c the more people that see it the more discussions we can have. Plus, you may think I am completely wrong and mad out of my mind!

Fletch said...

Excellent analogy with the poster. Really ties the review together.

Though you say this: "James Franco could be the male equivalent of Anna Faris if he'd just back away from the pot humor and choose from a variety of roles."

Has he done a number of other stoner flicks that I've somehow missed? Oh, and Faris may be alright in small doses, but I wouldn't exactly want to mirror her career if I were Franco. He should instead try to mirror that of his Saul inspiration - Brad Pitt (circa True Romance). Don't laugh - I think he's capable.

Fox said...

You know, the funny thing about the Anna Faris comparison I made was that she was in Smiley Face last year ... where she played a pot head! And it was her worst performance. (I didn't think of that until after the fact...)

But you're right, Franco isn't a usual pot movie man. I guess what I meant to say is that I found his comedic instincts to be really fresh in this film, and I would like to see them put to use in a different type of film. He also cracks me up in a Funny Or Die spoof of The Hills.

And Faris, she's def. had more duds than Franco, but I think she is magnificent... on the verge of being MEGA. (She's even watchable in the otherwise unwatchable Scary Movie(s)) The cool thing about bot of them is that they can do straight roles too. Franco was great in The Company. Can't think of a straight Faris role off the top of my head, but she was in Brokeback Mountain for like 10 seconds.

Kat Candler said...

Anna Faris is brilliant. She started out on the stage doing drama and then fell into comedy. At lease that's the word on the street. I love her so much it hurts.

WaywardJam said...

I gotta weigh in on the Franco/Faris debate. I love Faris, she has great timing and if someone could get her the right material her career would soar. You're saying the same about Franco. I bet if the two had a solid comedic script, together they'd make a killer film.

Oh yeah, I agree PE was just above so-so thanks in large part to McBride and Franco.

Gavin said...

This cannot really work, I feel so.
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