Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 26, 2013)
Back in early 2009, I saw an article that talked about the hardest-working men in Hollywood. Seth Rogen placed second on that list, and that didn’t come as a surprise. The guy appeared in seven movies released during 2008! Granted, he did voice work in three of them and offered cameos in the other two, but the dude sure did keep his dance card filled.
Of Rogen’s two lead roles, Pineapple Express came out first. Here Rogen plays Dale Denton, a process server who seems to enjoy his life. He dates hot high school student Angie (Amber Heard), and his job allows him plenty of time to pursue his favorite hobby: smoking dope.
That means frequent visits to his goofy dealer Saul (James Franco). During one trek to obtain pot, Saul introduces Dale to a super-potent blend called Pineapple Express. Dale digs this stuff and eagerly partakes.
Indeed, when Dale goes to drop a subpoena on Ted Jones (Gary Cole), he takes a smoke break first. While he puffs, he sees a murder take place inside Jones’ house. Understandably freaked out, Dale flees the scene and drops his Pineapple Express roach in the panic.
Bad move: the main pot supplier in the area, Jones identifies the blend. Dale rushes to Saul for assistance, but the dealer realizes the pot could be traced to him. From there they embark on a series of misadventures as they attempt to stay alive.
From now on, I will recognize no words scarier than these: “directed by David Gordon Green”. I’d not thought about the director since I saw his indie flick George Washington way back in 2002. To say that the film didn’t impress me would be an understatement. Indeed, I thought the movie was a self-indulgent piece of nonsense that I thoroughly disliked.
Green slipped under my radar until Express, and I didn’t even connect Washington and Express until after I’d seen the latter. That means I was able to enter Express without a preconceived disdain for its director, so I was open to its charms.
Or I would’ve been open to its charms if it’d offered any. My, what a pointless mess of a movie! After I saw the movie theatrically, I noted on a message board that the entire girlfriend plot was useless. The film could've completely omitted the Angie character/thread and been no worse for it - that whole side of the movie was virtually pointless.
Actually, the whole damned movie was pretty much useless. I chuckled three or four times and that was it. The rest of it was a relentless mix of pot smoking and slapstick. Can't think of anything clever? Let's hit someone in the head with an ashtray!
Slapstick has been around forever, but it's turned into cheap comedic shorthand. Movies just throw out the violent gags as an easy laugh, and they're everywhere - almost every comedy these days resorts to slapstick non sequitors to milk uncreative humor. It's as bad as the use of handheld camerawork to make dramas/action flicks "edgy".
I’ve seen Express described as a movie about pot smoking told from a pot smoker’s point of view. Perhaps that’s correct, and maybe that’s why I didn’t like it. Never having been one to partake in the demon weed, I can’t relate to that viewpoint.
But it seems to me that if you must be stoned to enjoy/understand a movie, then that movie comes with inherent flaws. For me, Express wasn’t funny and it seemed pointless. Add to that the fact it felt like it went on forever and this became a rather unenjoyable experience.