Sunday, August 17, 2008

James Franco is a revelation in PINEAPPLE EXPRESS

Much to our surprise, Chairman Phil and I laughed our asses off throughout PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. We'd both liked THE FORTY-YEAR OLD VIRGIN but more recent Apatow creations had been subject to the law of diminishing returns, culminating in the fatefully titled SUPERBAD. Added to that, the programme notes were full of pretentious wank from Apatow et al about what the movie was trying to do. Our hearts sank. I was unsure that any stoner movie could live up to the brilliance of LEBOWSKI or whether Seth Rogen would be able to exist on screen without annoying the frack out of me. Well, sometimes in cinema, it's wonderful to be wrong!

Of course, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS isn't as good as LEBOWSKI. Then again, it's not really what I would call a stoner movie. Okay, the two lead characters are a pot dealer and his client; they're on the lam after witnessing a drug-gang murder; and they're life problems stem from being wasted; and a lot of the humour rests on taking hits and driving while under the influence......But seriously, even after all that, this movie is really a spoof of cop-buddy-movies like LETHAL WEAPON and 48 HOURS. To that end, writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg send up the inherent homo-eroticism in all buddy movies by making most of the characters ludicrously camp and having the kind of "aw, gee, gosh, I really love ya, buddy" conversations that never actually happen in real life!

The script is absolutely spot on - superbly funny at every turn. And in terms of the movie's technical aspects, you have to love the synth heavy pastiche 70s soundtrack. But what really lifts the film are the performances. This starts with a hysterical cameo by Bill Hader as a soldier in the 50s testing weed for the US government. Seth Rogen does his usual thing as a semi-functional dope smoker, but the scene-stealers are Danny McBride as the camp, drug-dealer Red, and James Franco as the drug-dealer Saul. James Franco is an absolute revelation in this role, and I can't help but feeling that his pin-up good looks have somewhat derailed his career into banal romantic roles, when in reality he should be a comedy star.

PINEAPPLE EXPRESS isn't a perfect comedy. The final shoot-out at the warehouse goes on way too long, and let's face it, despite the real attempt by the film-makers to show genuine stakes, we never really doubt how the movie's going to work out. But in the final scene in a diner, where the protagonists relive their experiences and joke about their scrapes, you realise just what a great time you've had.

PINEAPPLE EXPRESS is on release in the US and Australia. It opens in the UK on September 12th; in Iceland and Turkey on September 19th; in Estonia on October 3rd; in Finland on October 10th; in the Netherlands, Singapore and Venezuela on October 17th; in Germay, Russia and Sweden on October 24th; in Denmark on October 31st; in France on November 12th; in Egypt and Spain on November 19th; in Belgium, Argetina and Italy on November 26th.

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