15 December 2008

'THE PINEAPPLE EXPRESS' (Dir. David Gordon Green, 2008, US) - Getting stoned was never this cool, or was it?

Now that Judd Apatow has more or less conquered the box office and staked his claim to being crowned the most influential and original producer of the new Jackass style of comedy, he should take a hiatus so that audiences can learn to appreciate the films that have worked and the ones which have fallen to the wayside, joining the collective heap of misconceived concepts like the very unfunny 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall'. It is pretty obvious that Apatow is a genius when it comes to writing comedy and his scripts for 'Anchorman' and 'The 40 year old virgin' reveal a genuinely unique authorial presence that has helped spawn a generation of comedians and films. Many have argued that Apatow's influence and importance is so significant that he has in effect created a self contained industry of talent which continues to grow. Apatow is a real expert when it comes to dealing with contemporary male anxieties; most of these anxieties are related to a bemused refusal to grow up as expressed by his shallow, superficial, insecure but deeply sympathetic male characters who realise that the impossibilities of living in a postmodern society built on the power of self image is ultimately destructive to the traditional image of masculinity.

The collaboration between an indie film maker like David Gordon Green and an increasingly mainstream comic auteur seemed like the strangest of collaborations but one seems pretty sure that Apatow was impressed by Green's experience with comparatively low budgets, character driven scripts and an expressionistic concern for locations which he had shown in films like 'George Washington' and 'Undertow'. The stoner comedy is not a new genre; it has been around since the 60s and films like 'Cheech & Chong', 'Friday' and 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High' proved that getting high could draw in an audience. The plot to 'The Pineapple Express' is fashionably Apatowesque in it absurdity and self referential acknowledgment of 70s TV cop shows, Saturday Night Live and late night straight to TV movies which are still played endlessly on cable.

Much of the humour is generated through the sending up of genre conventions which we are more than familiar with and the brilliantly improvised sequences between Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) and his drug dealer, Saul, (James Franco). Why is it that all Hollywood films seem to plagued with the problem of not knowing how and when to end a film? What ever happened to closure? Admittedly, the film loses it focus in the last third especially once the idea of absurdity and self parody reaches a point of frustration as the good guys and the bad guys shoot it out in a barn full of high grade marijuana. Nevertheless, this is one stoner comedy that is ridiculously funny in its depiction of male camaraderie, and has already been viewed as a real turning point in the career of James Franco who for a while seemed to have been crushed under the weight of the Spiderman franchise. One question though; getting stoned was never this cool, or was it?

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