Pineapple Express
Directed by David Gordon Green

Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg from a story by Judd Apatow

Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco


Pineapple Express

"Pineapple Express" is a perfect example of how not to direct a movie. It's also a perfect example of how not to write a movie, how not to act in a movie, how not to shoot a movie, and how not to edit a movie. And if there were other elements of a film not to do, it would be those as well. The film stars Seth Rogen as a process server who happens to witness a murder (shades of "Some Like it Hot") as he's about to serve someone. He runs to his dope connection, who has just received a new form of marijuana called 'Pineapple Express,' and if you've seen the story in last week's New Yorker about the medical marijuana scene in Calfornia you're already ahead of me.

Anyway, the two men (James Franco is his supplier) must take off before they too are eliminated; that's basically the story, such as it is - we can throw in a slightly nauseating story line about Rogen's girlfriend who is still in high school - but the next hour and fifty-one minutes have to do with the boys trying to stay ahead of the murderers and toking up at every possible occasion while they're doing it.

What's wrong with "Pineapple Express" is something that Alfred Hitchcock said fifty years ago: When you have a bomb under a table and it goes off, that's what's expected; when you have a bomb under a table and it doesn't go off, that's suspense. And just as with a thriller (and only a very few filmmakers know it), suspense is the essence of comedy. If we don't know what will happen to our hero or protagonist, we wait for the punch-line, the resolution; the fatal misstep is always in our minds, waiting for the chance to trip us up. And when it doesn't come, we laugh. In order for the filmmaker to do that, he or she must utilize the tools of suspense, that is, be calm, be understated, treat it all as though there really is a bomb under the table. If you do that, the humor will take care of itself.

And that's where "Pineapple Express" goes wrong; way, way wrong. Every scene, every motion by Rogen and his partner Franco, is frantic, hurried, hysterical, out of control. As directed by David Gordon Green, who obviously has no concept of how to direct humor, it's all so speeded up that nothing - no situation in the film - has a chance to build, to pay off, to even let us in on the gag. The two men are hysterical from beginning to end and just bounce from one situation to another. Rogan, who shares writing credit, has only two gears: one is the sort-of-lovable bear of a man he was in "Knocked Up," and the other is frantic hysteria. Neither of them serves him here. The editing and photography are no help, as the wrong camera angles are somehow always chosen so as not to emphasize whatever the comic essence might be, and the the film is chopped up so cruelly that nothing has a chance to play out for whatever laughs it might have generated. Have I left anything out? I hope not.