I wish I knew how to quit you
I admit I enjoyed Pineapple Express more than I expected. Turns out it’s much more wholesome than Knocked Up and Superbad and other Judd Apatow Factory products, because Apatow & Co. have pretty much come out of the closet entirely in this one. Finally! No more pretending it matters whether it’s possible to find a way to like women, or live with them, or even just score with them; no, they’re up front here about what really counts, which is true love among men. Call this one Judd Apatow’s Brokeback Mountain.
In Brokeback Mountain, you’ll recall, it’s Ennis and Jack who gradually discover just how intensely they want to ditch the womenfolk and concentrate on each other. In Pineapple Express, we’ve got Dale (Seth Rogen) and Saul (James Franco, who’s excellent) working gradually toward a state of BFFF (“best fucking friends forever”). Dale is a doughy, sweaty loser–like I said, it’s Seth Rogen–a rootless process server who lives out of his old beater car while listening to incessant talk radio and regularly buying pot from lonely, puppy-eyed dealer Saul. There are nice early scenes about the social etiquette of buying drugs. In this case, Saul is plaintively trying to bond with Dale over exotic weed called Pineapple Express, and Dale is desperate to finagle a quick exit after purchasing.
Then the plot complications set in, with Dale and Saul accidentally getting in way over their heads with the upper echelons of the local drug trade, including Saul’s supplier (Danny McBride), the area kingpin (Gary Cole), a corrupt cop (Rosie Perez) and other usual suspects. Then the episodic chase is on, with Saul and Dale fleeing for their lives in that baked, unfocused way that keeps leading them right back to the same locales and scenarios over and over. You know the drill. Run, toke, bond, encounter oddball characters, run toke, bond, scene inside home of uptight family and our hero or heroes trying to hold it together, car chase with auto going airborne while our heroes scream “AAAAAAAAHH!!”, run, toke, bond, split up briefly, realize how much they mean to each other, face some sort of wild, out-of-control danger, reconcile.
But for all the familiar, slovenly, hit-and-miss stuff going on, the movie has some real points of interest if you look at it in the Apatow context. Like, for example, the last chunk of the movie is an oddly long, violent, overextended action sequence played way, way too straight, so to speak. The laughs die out entirely as characters get blown away and Dale suddenly starts handling weapons like Rambo’s pudgy but still lethal brother, duking it out with hardened killers and so forth. It’s weird. It’s almost as if, after the captivity scene in which Dale and Saul unthinkingly mime out various sex acts while trying to free themselves, they’ve got some serious compensating to do. But who wants to see Seth Rogen prove he’s macho, anyway? Nobody sane, that’s who. It’s downright disturbing to see it attempted.
There’s a lone female romantic interest in the film, Dale’s girlfriend, a high school hottie he visits at her locker between classes. She’s the typical Apatow female in key ways, alternating in bipolar fashion between shrill bitchery and devoted, delusional compliance. But she’s soon dumped and forgotten. Other than that there’s the usual Apatow guy-descriptions of women as holes to stick things into and holes to suck things out of (see movie for details). But this is a good thing. Leaving women out of the narrative is a positive development for Apatow & Co. See, they’re getting past that pretense that all their obsessive male bonding was somehow leading to happy heterosexual love, as if they were “just practicing” on each other. Ideally, the next Apatow film will feature Seth Rogin marrying Paul Rudd, and Jonah Hill dating Michael Cera, and then we can all breathe a huge sigh of relief.
In the meantime, we should all accept and encourage them and let them know it doesn’t make any difference, we’ll love them just the same no matter what their sexual orientation is.
Write to Eileen Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org
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