The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pineapple Express

Last week, I wrote about the buddy cop movie, and I'm treading on familiar ground here with another buddy movie, albeit of a different variety; the stoner buddy movie with 2008's Pineapple Express.  Think of this movie as a newer Cheech and Chong movie with a lot more action and gunplay.  But the biggest thing about the flick is that it's surprisingly sweet in developing the all-important buddy relationship.

Stars Seth Rogen and James Franco first worked together in producer Judd Apatow's Freaks and Geeks, one of the great under-appreciated shows ever.  Teaming them together is a decision that helps this movie rise above any number of stupid stoner action comedies.  For the most part, the cast just clicks and works well together.  By the end though, it just goes too far with an action-packed finale.  I realize the story isn't supposed to be believable, but it just gets crazier and crazier as the situation gets worse and worse.  Enough of that for now, here's the story summary.

Dale Denton (Rogen) is a process server dating a high school senior, Angie (Amber Heard), without much in the way of a care or worry in his day-to-day life.  One day after visiting his pot dealer, Saul (Franco), Dale goes to serve Ted Jones (Gary Cole), who Saul has revealed is his dealer's supplier.  Dale thinks nothing of it -- cool coincidence -- and heads off to serve him.  Sitting outside Jones' house to make sure he's there, Dale sees a cop (Rosie Perez) head in, and together the two shoot a man point-blank several times in the head.  Dale freaks out, flicking a roach out the window, but Ted and the cop find the roach and know its a brand he has sold to only one dealer.  Dale quickly figures this out and heads to warn Saul, and together they head out on the run.  Jones put two of his men on it, Budlofsky (Kevin Corrigan) and Matheson (Craig Robinson), to take them out, but that's just the start as Dale and Saul become unknowing and unwilling participants in an epic drug war.

The only thing I didn't enjoy with the movie was that last part, the epic drug war.  Cole's Ted Jones is trying to push his Asian rivals out the door -- hence the opening murder -- and starts to think that Dale and Saul are working for the Asians.  The last 30 minutes is an orgy of over-the-top slow motion violence that drags on for far too long.  If it wasn't such a long sequence, it could have worked, but it just keeps going and going.  There are some funny lines and one great entrance, but these moments are lost in a sea of action, shooting, and blood squibs.  The finale makes up for this -- watch it HERE -- as three key characters discuss how ludicrous what just happened actually was.  The scene was improvised, and it's one of the great moments to come out of this movie.

Adding to the great chemistry between Rogen and Franco is Danny McBride as Red, Saul's supplier.  A master of improv, McBride is hysterical in every scene he's in, including my favorite it HERE.  This trio has an odd dynamic together that just works, plain and simple.  Dale at first doesn't want to get too close to Saul, but they end up becoming fast friends as they run for their lives.  Then throw in Red, the seemingly indestructible third member of the group, and you've got a winner.  The action scenes with these three are inspired because they're not action stars, like this fight in Red' apartment.  The ending leaves a door open for a sequel, and I'm for it.  You don't even need a script, just these three improving for two hours.

In his other movies, I've never been a huge fan of Rogen, and I can't figure out why.  His laugh bugs me, but there's something else.  As Dale though, I really like him and his character.  Seeing this unlikeliest of action heroes provide some of the funniest moments, especially this car chase.  His partner in crime, Franco, has been doing almost exclusively dramatic roles since Freaks and Geeks, but as Saul he shows he has quite a knack for comedy, and I hope he sticks with it.  Saul is an inspired character and with McBride's Red makes the most even better than it should be.

There are some issues with the rest of the cast, especially Cole who is underused as a villain and Perez seems an odd choice to be the badass cop.  Corrigan and Robinson have some great moments as an odd pairing of a hit team, but they get lost in the shuffle.  That's the big flaw in the movie as a whole, there's too much going on in terms of characters, story, and ridiculous action.  The movie is at its best when dealing with Dale and Saul's unlikely friendship, and whenever Danny McBride comes onscreen.  See the movie for them and skip the action-packed finale.

Pineapple Express <----trailer (2008): ***/****

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