Reviews

BFI COMEDY GENIUS: Pineapple Express (2008)

Written by Thom Marsh

So, let me tell you a little about The Showroom; a simply delightful independent cinema in Sheffield, where you can get a large Vimto (that’s right, Vimto) and a large popcorn, and still have change from a tenner for the bus home. I mean, that alone is an experience in itself. Now, I must point out as a born and raised Sheffield lad I’ll always have a soft spot for our city’s independent venues, but the experience The Showroom provides is second to none. It may not have the largest screens in the world, and there are no cup holders for your Vimto, but it’s a real hub of culture, and its cosy theatres provide the most relaxed viewing experience you’ll ever have. It’s a venue I frequent regularly, for new releases, old classics and Q+A sessions – I caught a brilliant screening of Planet Of The Apes there just a couple of weeks ago as part of a philosophy season. I couldn’t think of any other cinema I’d rather find myself in for a season of ‘Comedy Genius’.

Which is exactly what I found myself doing on Tuesday evening as The Showroom kicked off the season with their first of four strands: “Stoner and Cult Comedy”. First up was a screening of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s cult hit, Pineapple Express, a film celebrating its 10th birthday this year. I’d love to call this film a classic, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. In an age where attitudes towards cannabis are relaxing, and the negative connotations often related to cannabis are slowly fading, this film really hasn’t aged well at all. In fact, whilst I’m at it, I just want to point out how much I hate the label “Stoner Comedy”. It immediately dictates what you’re going to see in the film; you’re gonna see some friends smoking cannabis, one or all of them is going to do or say something stupid and the “adventure” unravels from there. From Half Baked to Harold and Kumar Get the Munchies (which is set to close the stoner side of things at The Showroom on Saturday 10th November), I just find the entire genre relies far too heavily on negative stereotypes, and the worst thing is, it’s perpetrated by the cannabis smoking community itself.

James Franco said it best when he told Seth: “that’s why your films get nominated for Stoneys and mine get nominated for Oscars”. It’s true, although there are certainly outliers to this. Think Kevin Smith’s Clerks (and the sequel, for that matter). It may not be labelled as “stoner comedy” outright, but for me, is the epitome of what the sub-genre should aspire to be. These films should make us think deep psychological questions, like whether or not the guys working on the Death Star would have let personal politics come in to play when taking on the contract. What I mean to say is, we should expect more than lazy outdated stereotypes.

Whilst parts of this article may feel like an attack aimed at Seth Rogen’s work, I assure you it’s not. In fact, the 2011 film 50/50, starring Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is absolutely fantastic and shows cannabis use in a more positive light. All in all, I feel if I’d have been asked to write this ten years ago, I’d have written a gushing article about how funny and “with the times” it was – 5 stars, no doubt. However, as a fully matured adult (no one can prove otherwise), I’d have to give it a 2.5, maybe a 3. If I was really high watching it.

Nonetheless, it was a fantastic evening and a fitting celebration for a film which remains solid entertainment. I’ll be covering the rest of this strand of the comedy season, with Friday next up on Saturday 3rd November (yep, Friday on Saturday), followed by Dazed and Confused (Wednesday 7th November) and Harold and Kumar on Saturday 10th November.  

For more information, and details of the various workshops and Q+A sessions ongoing throughout the comedy season, click here.

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