Wednesday, February 18, 2009

MOVIES- Pineapple Express

I was surprised that I liked PINEAPPLE EXPRESS as much as I did. Yes, it’s another Judd Apatow production with Seth Rogen. Yes, it concerns a bunch of twenty-something stoners hanging out. Yes, it has the same sort of Kevin Smith dialog you’ve come to expect. We’ve seen all of that before, several times in the last couple of years actually. But what makes this movie different is that it is the rebirth of an almost lost form of comedy.


I haven’t seen anybody do good slapstick since The Three Stooges. Television has had a couple of series that tried to do it in the 70s- LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY and that last Lucille Ball series where I spent every episode afraid that Lucy and Ethel were going to break a hip- but it wasn’t very funny. But the biggest laughs in PINEAPPLE EXPRESS are the parts where somebody gets stabbed with a fork, or hit in the head with a thrown ashtray, or run over with a car.

The Blu-ray is sharp with strong color. A lot of the scenes are lit with bright sunlight and the night scenes make no pretense at ambient lighting so there’s none of the grain that HD can sometimes have in dark scenes. OTOH, while the movie might not really require the picture quality of HD, the joy of having it is seeing the superb direction and photography of David Gordon Green and his DP, Tim Orr (who in the old tradition is also the cameraman). Like the picture quality of the Blu-ray, the compositions, staging and photography are far better than the movie requires but subtly add to the production.

The other place where the disk revives a lost art form is in the supplemental materials. Many recent disks haven’t had director’s commentaries and, in spite of the extra capacity of BD, supplemental materials have gotten rather scarce. PINEAPPLE EXPRESS has the quantity of supplemental materials that you would expect on a disk of CITIZEN KANE or GONE WITH THE WIND. There are deleted scenes, extended scenes, alternate line readings (with the most bizarre directors prompts you would ever imagine happening on set), a documentary about the stunts, a documentary on the making of the movie, an excerpt from their panel at ComicCon, and a commentary track that includes almost everyone who worked on the movie,

Now, there’s certainly a case to be made that the 734th Judd Apatow comedy made in the last 24 months really doesn’t deserve so much supplemental content, but it would be hard to make a case for anybody that loved the movie enough to buy a copy that less additional stuff on the disk is worse than more.

I put PINEAPPLE EXPRESS near the top of the Apatow heap with FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL and WALK HARD. He and his cohorts have had an astounding string of movies that were both successful at the box office and critically praised. But the success is deserved. As I’ve said before, the state of the art in comedy for the last several years has been either Ben Stiller playing a grown Charlie Brown without the jokes or intelligence of the comic strip, Will Farrell playing a variety of cartoon characters using screaming as his biggest comedic ploy, or Adam Sandler in a recurrent role as a 45 year old mentally challenged child. The FREEKS AND GEEKS alumni don’t have a very high bar to clear, but they continue to do it consistently and by a wide margin.

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