Pineapple Express Blu-ray ReviewJanuary 11, 2009
Though not the most popular cinematic sub-genre, the "stoner film" has produced a modest fan base. Some of the more notable titles include the various misadventures of Cheech and Chong (Up in Smoke, Nice Dreams, etc), Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Half Baked, Friday, the Big Lebowski and Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle. While these are based around a combination of marijuana use and often absurd comedic elements with possibly some light action, I am not aware of any movie that has actually aspired to be a "stoner action comedy," at least not until Pineapple Express (2008).
Producer Judd Apatow (40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up) and director David Gordon Green (George Washington, Undertow) attempt "to do one of those pot movies, but with the action of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, that [looks] really good and [is] also filled with people who [are] stoned." The film definitely has its share of drug use (the two main characters are stoned the majority of time onscreen) and resulting preposterous but entertaining scenarios. It also contains several well constructed action sequences and a decent amount of violence which do not necessarily mesh well with the comedic elements.
The plot, like most stoner films, requires a relaxed sense of logic or arguably just being stoned to appreciate. Dale (Seth Rogen) witnesses a murder perpetrated by Ted (Gary Cole), the leader of one of two rival drug syndicates, and Carol (Rosie Perez), a corrupt cop. Saul (James Franco) is Dale's pot dealer and just happens to have sold him the newest and best (the description of the imaginary genealogy of the drug is hilarious) weed, Pineapple Express. Dale conveniently drops a partially smoked joint before fleeing the murder scene that allows Ted who is the only source of the drug to eventually trace it back to Saul. One bizarre scenario after another transpires as the duo tries to outrun a pair of hit men (Craig Robinson and Kevin McCormick) on their trail.
Pineapple Express does not match up to the best comedy or action fare, but its real competition is the other staples of the stoner genre and in that light it holds up fairly well. The biggest problem is that the action/violence sequences, while having a good production value, do not always compliment the film's comedic spirit. Saul driving a police car with his leg stuck in the windshield is awesome, and the over the top slapstick fight between Saul's drug contact Red (Danny McBride) and the two main characters had me falling over laughing. However, other action segments seem a bit too serious (Craig Robinson's character getting the side of his face burned), and the climactic battle involving the majority of characters feels overly long.
The film when taken as a whole is uneven and not more than the sum of its often hilarious parts. Considering that most entries in this genre work as comedic moments tied together with tenuous logic, this is not that damning of a criticism. Pineapple Express does not transcend the genre, but that is rare with the exception of films like The Big Lebowski or Dazed and Confused. Fans who consider the "stoner comedy" a guilty pleasure will find much to enjoy here.
For reference the Blu-ray presents both the Theatrical and Unrated versions. The difference is six minutes of footage contained in a few scenes. These do not really change the feel of the movie that much but do provide a slight bit of context.
Sony presents Pineapple Express with a 1080p AVC encoded transfer framed at 2.40:1. The film looks good but never stunning. I do not think there is anything at fault in the transfer but rather the source material does not allow for the most brilliant of high-def presentations. Long time collaborators director David Gordon Green and cinematographer Tim Orr, known for more "high brow" productions, bring some of their refined sensibilities to the visual composition of the film. Even with their talents, the image does not impress like many recent high-def contributions.
A lot of the normal facets you would critique about HD visuals are all properly present. Colors are stable, grain is modest, detail and sharpness are prominent and no obvious digital processing is apparent. The problem is the image appears somewhat washed out which I am guessing to be an artistic choice. This prevents colors from being as vibrant as they could and blacks from being overly deep and diminishes the potential dimensionality of the transfer. With that being said, it is not a bad visual offering; it is just not a spectacular one either.
Audio is presented through a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track that does justice to the sound presentation. A good bit of the film is dialog driven comedy that comes through crisp and clear. The songs used have a good sense of spatial separation and when the action kicks in, the surround setup and subwoofer are put to work. Even through I complained about the flow of the action packaged climax, the audio is top notch there. Overall this still cannot compete with the latest wall-to-wall action soundtracks but does what it needs to well.
The dubbed audio offerings are comprised of French Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Portuguese, Spanish and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles are available in English (SDH), Chinese, French, Indonesian, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai.
Every Apatow production I have seen on DVD and Blu-ray has been packed with extras and Pineapple Express is no exception. There is a lot to go through with some weak moments, but the better supplements win out. A digital copy of the film is also included on a second disc. The Blu-ray is BD-Live enabled though the only thing I could find related to the film was two ring tones you can download.
Commentary – A feature-length commentary that includes input from a surprising number of the film's participants including Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green. While I did not really learn a lot about the movie, I think I actually enjoyed it equally as much than watching without the track. The participants are very casual and constantly joking and making the movie more consistently funny with their comments.
What I found strange yet amusing was the loose structure of the commentary. It is like a window of time was setup for the recording and whoever could would either call in or show up. Ed Begley, Jr. (Dale's girlfriend's father) is present for the first fifteen minutes but has to leave before any of his scenes. David Gordon Green is on the phone but is only sporadically heard. Craig Robinson and Rosie Perez show up sometime around 25 minutes in, and at one point Rosie goes to the bathroom when they expect her to comment on a scene. Kevin McCormick phones in around halfway through, and they later realize he has hung up.
Some of the highlights beyond all the joking involve Franco explaining his method for looking stoned, how they made the weed used and discussion of the logical gaps in the story.
Deleted Scenes (3:27) – Three deleted scenes that work around existing moments in the film. These are amusing, but it is fairly obvious why they were cut.
Extended and Alternate Scenes (21:06) – Nine variations of scenes in the movie with an extended take of Dale and Seth stranded in the forest and a very funny variation on the opening scene from Bill Hader as Private Miller.
The Making of Pineapple Express (21:08, HD) – An overview of the movie's production with input from the main actors, director, producer and production designer. Though not very long, it packs more information than your standard promo fluff. Script readings and rehearsals are shown along with discussion of the inspiration for the film (Apatow conceived it while watching Brad Pitt's pot smoking character in True Romance) and the efforts to get it made, which they were skeptical would happen. One interesting fact is that Rogen and Franco were originally going to play the opposite characters before switching parts.
The Action of Pineapple Express (12:19, HD) – Interviews from Rogen, Franco, Green and Perez along with stunt coordinator Gary Hymes are combined in a brief overview of filming the action and stunts for the movie. We learn that no green screen effects were used and all stunts were performed on location.
While stuntmen were employed as much of the action as possible was done by the particular actors which resulted in various minor injuries. They go over the use of the "Go-Mobile" which is a recently introduced device that attaches to the side of a vehicle to allow a more realistic filming of driving scenes. There is also a breakdown/rehearsal of the action for the first fight scene.
Line 'O Rama (3:28) – A montage of various lines that highlights some of the best comedic moments from the film.
Direct 'O Rama (3:47) – A montage of moments where Green gives direction to the actors while off screen to often hilarious results.
Gag Reel (4:55) – Outtakes of the actors goofing off on set or screwing up their lines.
Item 9 (4:17) – A montage of unused moments from the opening sequence in the film. If you found the opening premise humorous, these will be equally funny.
Phone Booth (6:25) – Two takes of the phone booth scene from the end of the movie where Dale is begging his girlfriend Angie to take him back. One is done as "happy" and the other "angry." What makes it humorous is this was filmed before the actress who plays Angie was hired, so Apatow voices her part.
Saul's Apartment (13:46) – Four takes on Saul's apartment where various actors come to buy drugs and Saul's grandmother worries about him getting busted.
Raw Footage (32:43) – As the title says, this is raw unedited footage from shooting. There are some funny moments here but also some dead ones to dig through.
Begley's Best (5:43, HD) – At first I thought this was a parody of Newman's Own with Ed Begley, Jr. going through the process of packing an order for "Begley's Best" environment friendly cleaner and taking it to the post office. It turns out this is a real product that you can order.
Red and Jessica's Guide to Marriage (4:12, HD) – Red (Danny McBride) and his wife Jessica, who was not seen in the movie, talk about why their marriage works. There are a number of low-brow jokes and much accentuation of Jessica's well endowed chest.
Injury Report (4:56, HD) – A rundown of the various injuries sustained by the actors while filming.
Stuntmaster Ken (3:12, HD) – A joke segment where Ken Jeong, who plays a member of the Asian Crime Syndicate, portrays himself as the lead stunt coordinator of the film.
Rehearsal 3/6/07 – Police Liason (5:40, HD) – Seth Rogen and Cleo King (Police Liason Officer) rehearse the scene where she catches him selling drugs to kids. This is very amusing as Rogen loses his composure several times but King holds it together till the end.
Table Read 3/4/06 (8:36, HD) – Table readings of two scenes. One is where Saul and Dale "break up" that was featured in the movie and another involving an underwater GPS that was not included. It is entertaining to watch the actors play off each other while reading the script.
Comic Con Panel (7:33) – Apatow moderates a discussion panel including input from Franco, Rogen, McBride and director Green. There are some staged joke questions asked by the audience that involve Frank Miller, who has nothing to do with the movie, and where to buy weed.
Red Band Trailer (2:47, HD) – The awesome red band trailer in HD.
Though I have issues with Apatow and Green's attempt to integrate Hollywood action into a stoner comedy, the parts that work provide laugh out loud results. If you go into Pineapple Express knowing what to expect, you will find much drug based humor that will entertain.
The video and, more so, the audio on Sony's Blu-ray do what is needed but rarely blow you away. Plus there are a generous amount of extras to allow you dig further into the hilarity. This is not the genre defining classic it might have been but has more than enough humor to match up to most other stoner films.
- Robert Searle
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January 06, 2009
5.1 Dolby TrueHD