FORGET THE MORAL LESSONS These boys just wanna have fun.
Judd Apatow brand comedies may deliver the most unbounded hilarity to be found on the screen these days, but too often they lack the courage of their own bad taste and anti-social attitudes. Wouldn’t Knocked Up have been a better movie if Seth Rogen’s character had refused to grow up? If, instead of dumping his doper pals for the dubious pleasures of bourgeois maturity, he had hung on to them and their dream world of slovenly hedonism, pop-culture joking, and a potentially moneymaking “Fleshofthestars.com” Web site? But no, the movie had to wither into a promotion for motherhood and male responsibility and make $150 million.
|Directed by David Gordon Green | Written by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Judd Apatow | with Seth Rogen, James Franco, Gary Cole, Rosie Perez, and Danny R. Mcbride | Columbia Pictures | 111 minutes|
Scripted by Rogen (who also stars) and Evan Goldberg (they collaborated on Superbad
as well) and directed by the usually more sober indie auteur David Gordon Green, Pineapple Express
is the movie Knocked Up
might have been had it not copped out. No apologies here from stoned, sweaty, thirtysomething loser Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) for dating a high-school girl half his age — it’s true love! No qualms of conscience when Dale and his dealer, Saul Silver (James Franco’s best performance yet), sell grass to 10-year-olds in the school yard — these kids are trash-talking hardcore punks and know what they’re in for! And though Dale starts out the film in the despised profession of process server, don’t expect him to confront his moral failings and make good after learning his lesson the hard way.
Not for lack of trying, however, because for a while the story unfolds like a Jobian assault on Dale and Saul and their deviant lifestyles. After a hard day of wearing disguises and delivering subpoenas to more-respectable members of society, Dale drops by Saul’s apartment, where the stoned and lonely loser offers him an exclusive on the killer weed of the title. Through plot convolutions only a cannabis-afflicted mind could conceive, Dale then witnesses a murder pulled off by Ted (Gary Cole), a local drug kingpin, and Carol (Rosie Perez), a crooked cop. Spotted by the killers, Dale and Saul must flee, pursued by Ted’s henchmen and beleaguered by increasingly brutal, and hilarious, acts of violence.
It’s Blue Velvet by way of Cheech and Chong. It also becomes an unabashedly homo-erotic buddy movie, with Dale overcoming his disdain for the childlike, irredeemably seedy Saul and embracing their kinship, a bonding that could be seen as a metaphor for Rogen, Apatow, and company tossing away all pretensions to propriety and celebrating their inner degenerate. Add Danny R. McBride as Red, the initially treacherous but ultimately endearing and indestructible pusher, and you have a trio of battered rejects who can man-hug without shame.
As for Green’s unlikely involvement, it might actually be his best work. His deliberate (some might say dawdling) and detailed approach can make for soppy melodrama in a film like Snow Angels, but here it provides the perfect tone and pace. And when he needs to pick it up a bit, as with the “action” scenes toward the end of the film, the result is downright exciting, as well as transcendently absurd. Nobody will learn any lessons by the end of this movie, except how to make a gleefully triumphant entertainment.