Monday, August 11, 2008

Huey Lewis Can Do No Wrong

Back in 1985 Robert Zemeckis directed a delightful little film, you may have heard of it, it was about a boy who through a friend and mentor becomes entangled in all this time travel stuff. Anyways, that movie, if you haven't already guessed, is Back To The Future and the reason I bring it up is because of it's theme song, Back In Time by Huey Lewis and the News. The film was sky rocketed into American pop culture and carried the song with it. 23 years later Judd Apatow is producing a comedy with yet another Huey Lewis theme starring the new king of comedy Seth Rogen and his former short lived television co-star James Franco. The film is, as I am sure you already know, Pineapple Express. But the question that might be lingering on every one's mind, is it funny?

I can answer such a question with a yes and a no but let me first explain it a little. If you have seen the trailers, which have been playing for something like a year now, you know it is unapologetically a stoner movie. It doesn't try to hide that fact. Something it isn't though is a stupid movie. I would say it uses some cliche but only to it's advantage. The films director, indie god David Gordon Green (Snow Angels, All The Real Girls), does a great job making this film stand out amongst all the Dude, Where's My Car and Harold and Kumar type movies.

The film is essentially a buddy/action/chase movie. Dale Denton(Seth Rogen) witnesses a murder and drops his weed at the scene. While trying to get away he makes a big ruckus and the murderer/drug lord sees that he saw them commit the murder and is able to trace the weed back to Saul(James Franco). This leads to a chase and we go along for the ride.

Now back to the "is it funny?" question. The reason for my saying yes and no is because it is funny, but it isn't the type of funny you expect from these guys, well not totally. Yes they do offer up jokes filled with expletives and jokes about being high, but the film isn't riddled with such jokes. Every joke actually shows you a bit of the character and if it isn't exactly pushing the plot forward it is at least bringing you into what each character is going through.

I would say it is kind of separated into two halves. The first half we are introduced to the characters. We meet Dale, Saul, Red(Danny McBride), and Angie, Dale's 18 year high school girlfriend. They have funny banter, but it isn't exactly laugh-out-loud, burst a spleen funny. It just kind of makes you smile as some subtle and most not so subtle jokes are thrown about left and right. You may giggle or nod your head as to say, "heh, I get it" but rarely do you laugh as hard as you might in other Judd Apatow vehicles such as Superbad, Knocked Up, or The 40 Year Old Virgin. This isn't to say that those movies are unequivocally funnier, what it is saying is that David Gordon Green definitely played his hand in this film. If you have seen any of his other films, they are mainly dramas, but they are interspersed with wonderful bits of humor throughout. I can see all the actors pretending they are just talking and the humor just comes from what the characters are saying, there are rarely any punchlines.
The second half is more action oriented but it gave me more laugh-out-loud moments. The action is well paced and has a certain sense of humor to it all, especially in a fight between Dale Denton and Ted Jones(Gary Cole). They fight, but in a more realistic sense, they bite each other, pinch each other, anything to get ahead. You can tell that these guys don't often get into fist fights, especially on Denton's part. Sometimes the action goes over the top, but it wasn't so much that it took me out of the story, although I will say that it was on the brink.

Along the way we get some spoofing of action films but not in your face spoofing(Ala Date Movie, Meet The Spartans) just a few jabs here and there. You can tell that the cast and David Gordon Green had a lot of fun and the fun seems to comes through into the characters.

Now, although I definitely enjoyed this film for it's Knocked Up meets Lethal Weapon humor I will say it did have it's set backs. Some people say the beginning is a little slow paced and boring, others say that the second half is too over the top, I don't happen to agree with either of those opinions. To me the flaws lie in some of the characters. Rosie Perez plays a bad cop in this and while I really dislike Rosie Perez I think she was pretty much wasted in this role, there is nothing to it and it could have just as easily been cut out. The only reason it is in there is to have a bad cop or a dirty cop I guess, but it wasn't really needed. Gary Cole on the other hand, while his character was definitely needed, seems to play it totally straight. Which I understand he needs to being a villain and all but he just seems to be to serious for this movie. Not only is he serious but he lacks anything compelling whatsoever. He is a terrible villain. If he were at least more compelling to watch maybe he would be a more interesting character, but as is he just falls flat on the screen(save for the Rogen/Cole fight scene).

When the third act is coming full force it seems that Green decided he wanted to lose some characters, and while I thought the way he does so is funny, it seems to happen a little too quickly. Almost anytime a character dies, or leaves the story it just seems very abrupt.

Despite it's flaws I do think this is a hit for the Apatow clan(yet again) and the choice of director was a wonderful addition. Tim Orr's cinematography is perfect for the film and really nice on the eyes, he has been the DP for all of David Gordon Green's films to date.

The last thing I am sure most people want to see is another stoner comedy or maybe for a lot of people another Apatow comedy, but really this movie just made me smile the whole way through.

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