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Filmmakers Bleed: Pineapple Express
Aug 14th, 2008 by Dan

Back when I first got Superbad on Blu-ray, there was a short excerpt from Pineapple Express that I watched excitedly, assuming it would be as hilarious as Superbad. The clip seemed to suck pretty badly and I just didn’t get it. It was boring and just not funny at all! Then I saw a trailer for the movie before Forgetting Sarah Marshall and my interest was rekindled. Perhaps the clip just wasn’t funny in context (that’s actually the case, I found the same clip funnier when I was more familiar with the characters and context). So when Pineapple Express finally came out, I found myself really wanting to go fueled by enjoying Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Superbad and deciding that Judd Apatow-produced movies are just plain good.

I bought some tickets and watched on Wednesday and, despite the strength of the comedy, the movie just can’t quite match the humorous power of its predecessors. The story goes a little something like this: (SPOILER TIME!) Dale Denton (Seth Rogan) is one of those dudes who delivers subpoenas (can’t remember what they’re called) and a pretty heavy marijuana smoker. He spends all day alternating between putting on disguises to trick people into acknowledging who they are so he can serve then and smoking pot. His pot dealer, Saul Silver (James Franco) desperately wants to be friends with Denton who wants nothing to do with his pot dealer other than business. Saul receives a shipment of some very rare weed (THE Pineapple Express) and proceeds to sell this weed to Dale and Dale alone, while also revealing that he’s the only dealer in town who’s got any. While attempting to serve Ted Jones (Gary Cole), he witnesses him murdering a drug rival along with his policewoman co-conspirator. In his escape they realize he was smoking Pineapple Express and begin to chase him as hilarity ensues.

The story was more or less pretty good and funny and nothing beyond what you’d expect, with one minor exception. Denton has a girlfriend who is a high school student and whose life he puts in jeopardy inadvertently because of what he has witnessed. When he does visit her house and he attempts to convince her family to flee, I don’t think that I ever witnessed the moment where they came to believe him. Perhaps it was just strange editing, but one second they think he’s full of it and the next they’ve decided to flee to a hotel. They also kind of leave the relationship up in plot land once Dale and his compatriots have completely destroyed Ted’s operation. This is probably because it wouldn’t have been very funny at all, but I prefer not to have my plot points left dangling.

SPOILER END!

Should you go see Pineapple Express? If you like Judd Apatow-produced movies (and one that’s actually a bit tamer than his older ones, unless you find drug culture more offensive than sex), you will most likely enjoy this movie unless you have overhyped it. I’m torn in recommending seeing this movie in theaters just because it’s good compared to other comedies, but not great compared to the body of work that has preceded it. If you can catch a matinĂ©e or get someone to take you, go see it. Otherwise, just wait for the DVD: it’s the weakest of the Judd Apatow bunch, IMHO.

Filmmakers Bleed: Forgetting Sarah Marshall
May 1st, 2008 by Dan

I’m a naturally skeptical guy when it comes to my entertainment. There is only so much time in a day and I don’t want to devote my time to watching crummy movies, playing bad games, or reading stupid books. So it takes someone whose tastes I trust to recommend a movie to me or a rock-solid trailer coupled with good scores on IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes to really get me to see a movie. I initially resisted The 40-Year-Old Virgin based on trailers, but when I finally saw the movie based on The Office-related Steve Carell love, I found a rather funny and enjoyable movie.

Then Knocked Up began to be advertised as “From the people who brought you…” which is a giant red flag to me. I mean, how often have we all been burned by that ad trick? Producers are not directors, so who knows how this could turn out? I was dragged out to see it, kicking and screaming, but I found myself, again, pleasantly surprised. Perhaps these Judd Apatow-produced movies could continually be good. Maybe the same producer does have an influence on a film.

It all came to a head with Superbad. Fueled mostly by my desire to see Michael Cera in any project he’s ever a part of, and saw one of the best comedies I have ever seen. So nowadays I don’t ever doubt the Judd Apatow brand and I will blindly go and see any Apatow-produced movie, no matter whether or not the trailer is any good (strangely enough, maybe brilliantly? Judd Apatow movies never have good trailers and they are generally not that funny to me).

His most recently produced movie, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, was also written and directed by one of my favorite tv actors, Jason Segel, and also starred another of my favorites, Kristen Bell, so I wanted to go before I even saw the movie trailers. If you haven’t seen any trailers, here’s the general plot: Peter Bretter (Segel) is a moderately successful composer for the TV show his girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Bell) stars in and they have a loving relationship. Except she breaks up with him to be with British rock star Aldous Snow (Russel Brand). To escape the pain, he heads out to Hawaii only to find that Sarah is also vacationing there…with Aldous. Hilarity ensues.

So let’s talk about the movie a bit: This is Segel’s debut as a writer and a director and he definitely does a great job on all counts with this movie. The scenes don’t go on for too long, the writing is on its game about 99% of the time, and the acting is all really well done. I’m not typically a fan of toilet humor or any sort of crude, idiotic humor, yet this movie still tickles the funny bone, even with its crude humor just because it has that balance that all Apatow movies seem to have with making me laugh at things that are truly not funny in any other movie. You couldn’t say that the humor was intellectual, but it’s still on a level beyond what you expect it to be. You will laugh hard if you see this movie. Forgetting Sarah Marshall also has some funny self-referential moments with Kristen Bell’s show being canceled after its third season (I think) and it being a detective show as well, mirroring the great Veronica Mars that was criminally (see what I did there?) canceled too soon.

Go and see this movie, seriously. It’s funny. I emphatically recommend it.

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