"Bong-mitzvah, baby, light it up!"
Improv comedy can either work for or against you, it just depends on who is doing it. With the team behind Pineapple Express, you have a big hit on your hands; precise, but not very accurate. Sometimes, the improv doesn't know when to stop, which leads to rambling and draging scenes. David Gordon Green is at fault here, but isn't necessarily a huge villain here. His direction proves that the man is capable of portraying comedy of all types, subtle or over the top, with good rhythm, and still manage to make a finely tuned action film. As the subtlest, and most clever Apatow production made to this date, Pineapple Express is shy from genius, due to a few minor set backs that prevent i from reaching it's true potential.
I love you guys so much!
Pineapple Express is strangely charming in a semi-quirky, way, and a lot of that charm comes from character chemistry. The characters tend to work in pairs, and rightfully so, they have their own personality and friendships; it's cute. Rosie Perez and Gary Cole act like some sort of cutsey husband and wife that are serious and scary, but joke around with eachother and look at things in a truly realistic, non-sociopathic way; it's very funny. Craig Robinson and Kevin Corrigan act like a troubled couple with both sides having ups and downs, but truly having a heavy bromance going on, and so forth. And of course, our threesome lead, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, and James Franco.
All around, the cast works amazingly as a team, with each member holding up their end of the deal and giving off really good laughs, even minor characters like the school liazon, a teacher played by Joe Lo-Triglio or "the asians" played by Bobby Lee and Ken Jeong. It's almost like a collaborative, non-serious skit or something; it's just really fun.
Though, a really weak point I felt was the romantic counterpart for Seth Rogen, played by Amber Heard. Her character and the general subplot there literally goes no where... it felt pointless. In fact, her character's parents, played by Ed Begley Jr. and Nora Dunn were highly entertaining and funny, much like the rest of the cast; Amber, not so much. That's not enough to detract from the fun of the film, which is carried gracefully on the backs of each cast member, because all of them, thankfully, are strong and cappable of bringing the funny, scripted or not.
This scene was funny, but could've been improved or written better.
Speaking of scripting or not, let's talk about the films approach on improv. The actual quality of the improv is hit and miss. Aside from the truly golden dialogue and monologue, there are still some parts of rambling, or essence of real life awkward conversation, where you don't know what to say, so you say stuff like "yeah", "yup", "okay"; dullness lies ahead in that road. Eventually, some form of dialogue structure or scripts disappears, and the film meanders between words. Then again, how much of the script as truly used? David Gordon Green is known for owning a script, but barely using it on set, which is an ambitious approach, but sometimes, you have to know when to have some sort of pattern or assured rhythm going on.
Whatever aspect of a script there was, it was great. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are truly talented writers that have a great thing going on between the two. They're work this time was much more clever than their past writings. Instead of being laugh out loud funny all the time, it was pretty quiet and more natural and less energy drink. There was a sense of subtlety that I've seen missing from a lot of other Apatow Productions, which I really appreciated.
Three messed up idiots.
Another thing I liked was the handling of the chronic blazing scenes, how they come out, and their consequences. After smoking in the woods, the "Red" situation occurs, which obviously wasn't good for anyone. And guess what the hell happens before the insane car chase? They smoke shit-tons of weed with junior high schoolers. It's a good portrayal of cause and effect, which while not giving the dialogue it's appropriate structure, it gave the story a good pacing. Though, several scenes of exposition feel really meaningless. As filler, they're appropriate, but add no humor or any enjoyment to the film. We get to see a lot of the dudes running or travelling... kinda boring, sometimes. Anyway, back to the weed. Additionally, the format in which James Franco's character deals the drugs is quite funny, wherein he feels like an appropriate business man with standards and a catalog, and proper manners/facades you have to put on whilst on the job. It's all around clever and funny.
I love this shot, so. much.
So was it a bad thing that director David Gordon Green didn't use more of the script? Maybe, but still, his directing job was quite good, when not concerning the writing. Visually, the guy has great taste, from cinematography to background set design. He almost has the Wes Anderson sense of putting funny things in the background, which works out quite well for him here. Whether it's people doing something hilarious, or small random items like an orangutan or a gun candle, he does it well. And from camera work to editing, the guy has a great auteristastic (I made that word up) style, from slow motion, quick zooms, quick cuts, to dutch angles, to tracking shots; really well done stuff. He's strangely quirky in his filmmaking work, and it shows no less here.
Pineapple Express isn't the comedically genius film it totally could've been, but it's damn good, and damn close. With characters that work really well together (as well as the great actors), great filmmaking, and a lot of hilarious improv, it could be pretty easy to ignore any downfalls the film had. It's sole purpose seems to be to have a great time, and while it's a flawed film, it does manage to be hilarious and just plain fun. I recommend buying a copy, because in a sense, it's a classic to some degree, at least of the decade. It's definitely one to not ignore.
I give Pineapple Express a 4/5 because THUG-LIFE.