Pineapple Express AND Tropic Thunder

I’ve been away for awhile, I know. Demands of the new job. But I’m returning with a double dose of reviews. Both comedies… both good.

Pineapple Express

4.5 Stars

There’s something to be said for stoner comedies. Some people will get them. Some people won’t. But they are generally funny if they aren’t too reliant on cliched jokes. Judd Apatow is proving himself to be the Pixar of R-Rated comedies: he just can’t seem to miss.

Dale (Seth Rogan) witnesses a dirty cop (Rosie Perez) and the city’s most ruthless drug-lord (Gary Cole) murder a member of a rival drug cartel, and subsequently drops a joint in his panic. But this isn’t any joint. This joint is some of the rarest weed on earth, the titular Pineapple Express. Since Ted Jones (Cole) is the primary supplier of it, he can easily track it to Dale and the dealer he bought it from, Saul (James Franco). Thus Dale and Saul embark in a game of cat and mouse, trying to stay one step ahead of their pursuers, all while trying to keep the groovy buzz going.

Apatow and Rogan have been ever pushing the boundries of the R-Rated comedy, ever since their break out success with The 40 Year Old Virgin. And this goes balls to the wall with action. The action comedy ground work laid down by Eddie Murphey in the 80’s, coupled with the stoner-buddy comedies of Cheech and Chong makes for a potent combination, one that I was initially wary of. But I shouldn’t have been. I should know that if it’s done by Apatow and crew, I need not worry.

It could have been a dumb little flick about weed. It could have been a mediocre entry into the Apatow cannon. But the bar keeps getting pushed higher (no pun intended) and the boundries expand further and further.

I wouldn’t say it’s completely brilliant, but it is a mostly original entry into the stoner comedy sub-genre. It’s one of the finer comedies to be released in recent years, especially amid all those *Insert random genre* Movie pieces of shit flicks that have been churned out with disturbing frequency.

The real hub of the film, the glue that kept it together, was James Franco. He takes a break from his more serious roles and takes on a role that he seems almost born to play. It’s good to see an actor play a character that’s out of his usual range and stock. It’s like when you go back and watch Sean Penn as Jeff Spicolli.

I laughed the whole way through, and it probably hasn’t been since Seth Rogan’s previous flick, Superbad, that I laughed so hard and so consistently at a flick. Highly recommended.

Tropic Thunder

4 Stars

Perhaps my expectations on this one were too high. But I couldn’t get into this one as much as I wanted to. It was good. I enjoyed it. I laughed a lot. It certainly wasn’t a bad movie, far from it. But I kinda wanted more. But Tom Cruise was the bomb.

Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey, JR. play prima-donna stars in a new Vietnam War epic, who are dropped into an actual South-East Asian war zone when their on and off screen antics get to be too much for rookie director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan). Stiller’s action star Tugg Speedman, Black’s comic actor Jeff Portney and Downey, Jr.’s method actor Kirk Lazarus unfortunately don’t know they’re in a real warzone and continue “acting” through real raids, real kiddnappings and real deaths. Hilarity ensues.

It does. It really does. There are times when there are several in-jokes, where if you’re an astute observer, as well as being well-versed in war flicks, you’ll get the jokes. I got them, but I’m a film nerd like that. Everybody did a damn fine job playing off each other, and no one stole the show (except Tom Cruise).

But… I don’t know. I can’t put my finger on it. I was just expecting more, I guess.

As for the controversy… To me, the retard thing wasn’t that big of a deal. They weren’t making fun of the mentally handicapped. They were making fun of actors who feel like they have to play a mentally handicapped people in order prove their worth as an actor, and the sometimes ignorance of the actual affliction. Same thing with Downey, Jr. in black face. He was making fun of “method acting.” They’re highlighting the extremes of each, blowing it out of proportion to comedic effect. And it worked.

I felt everyone did a good job. And especially Cruise’s over-the-top cameo as bad ass movie producer. It almost seemed as if he was making fun of both his real life role as head of United Artists, and his role in Jerry Maguire. I dug it.

It was funny, I liked it, go see it in theatres… but to me, it was missing something that I just can’t put my finger on.

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