At Quality 16 and Showcase
1.5 out of 5 stars
With the possible exception of “Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay,” never has a movie about potheads acting like potheads drawn as much serious consideration from critics as “Pineapple Express.” It turns out, though, that this latest release from the brain trust of Judd Apatow and company — producers of such comedic hits as “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up” and “Superbad” — didn’t deserve any of that attention. Lame, juvenile and often utterly incomprehensible, “Pineapple Express” should serve as a warning of what happens when we give any filmmaker more credit than he deserves.
Seth Rogen (“Knocked Up”) co-wrote and stars in the film as Dale Denton, an average pothead who has the misfortune of witnessing a drug-related murder. On the run from a drug lord looking to silence any witnesses, Dale turns to his pot dealer Saul (James Franco, “Spiderman 3”) for help. They run, hide and smoke before deciding to take a stand. In the process they learn many lessons, chief among them that being high all the time might just be the one thing holding them back in life.
For what it aims to be — a stoner comedy with no real point — “Pineapple Express” can’t really fail. It’s reasonably goofy, and Franco brings an odd likability to the dealer character. Rogen is as pleasant a slacker as you might remember from “Knocked Up,” and the film manages a few laughs with its outlandish, almost satirical setup as an action movie. It’s a movie you might see on a slow Tuesday night with your high school buddies and laugh over before regretting what a waste of time it was.
Thus, the film falls well short of justifying the perpetual smoke of credibility that seems to shroud every Apatow production. Through no fault of their own, Apatow, Rogen and their frequent collaborators (Jonah Hill and Evan Goldberg among them) are constantly drooled over by critics and fans for the supposed charm and significance of their films. Whether it be the “honesty” of “The 40-Year Old Virgin” or the “compassion” of “Knocked Up,” several voices of prominence have droned on about how these films strike a chord others miss. They should know better.
We as critics or fans often get caught up in supposed depth in films that would mystify even the creators of those films. “Knocked Up” might be the perfect example of a movie whose gigantic flaws were overlooked for such fallacies. For example, few, if any, critics have questioned the unflattering depictions of women in Apatow’s productions, chief among them Katherine Heigl’s airheaded embrace of Rogen (again a loser/stoner) in “Knocked Up.”
This trend continues in “Pineapple Express” with the ludicrous romance of Rogen and a high school girl (who is completely indifferent to the fact that he might get her whole family killed). It seems that every lead female character in these films either has serious self-image issues or has never been in the company of a sober male. That might be a line to follow when writing about the next Apatow production, but it seems too many of us are busy fawning over nonexistent undertones.
Like Adam Sandler’s whiny tantrums or Martin Lawrence’s motor-mouth, Apatow’s stoner-with-a-heart-of-gold shtick will inevitably wear thin. Better sooner than later, though, because until that happens, we’ll still be fools eagerly looking for meaning in fluff like “Pineapple Express.”