Sin de la Rosa finds little to love in the dated stoner bro comedy Pineapple Express, in her re-view subtitled “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bong.”
Part 1: The Bullshit
I can’t remember much about watching Pineapple Express the first time other than I 1) was 17, 2) saw it in theatres, and 3) enjoyed it enough. Having rewatched it now, I have no fucking idea why that would be. It’s not a good movie. I did not laugh at any of the jokes or care about any of the characters or engage with the plot. And, I was fucking high as a kite (which I thought was the appropriate way to watch). One time, while high, I watched three hours of massage videos on YouTube. Another time, again high, I watched three hours of a young, flamboyant teen reviewing different Yankee Candles. In fact, while high, I watched all six seasons of Jersey Shore. What I’m saying is that it takes so little, so very, very little, to keep me entertained while I’m under sticky icky’s spell. But alas, Pineapple Express could not even cross that threshold. It actually surprised me how little I remembered and how little it inspired me. I’m tempted to say that my affinity for “bro-humor” has refined in the last ten years, but I know that’s not true. If anything, I’m more of a garbage dumpster than ever before (see my newfound love of hockey and pro wrestling). What has happened is that the I’ve developed a shorter tolerance for BULLSHIT of which there are two egregious examples in this movie (there’s actually probably a ton of bullshit, but two instances that stuck out to me).
First, I’m not a purveyor of the stoner comedy. Now is where I confess that I’ve never seen Half Baked or Cheech & Chong or even Harold & Kumar. And, to be honest, I have no real desire to visit these movies because I don’t trust them even a little bit to hold up. (I feel the most bad about never seeing Harold & Kumar but at this point I can’t watch anything that would risk my undying crush on John Cho.) So, I can’t speak to the ways that legality is handled in other movies, but it fell flat here. The alterna-history opening where the US government determines that marijuana should be illegal based on secret MK Ultra like testing eliminates the actual super, duper racist history of banning a primarily medicinal plant because Mexicans were the ones using it. And of course, now, Black people are the ones that who are prosecuted most for its usage, even where it’s legal. So, there’s something silently nefarious about watching two white dudes gallivant around having a good old time with it, even if they get their “comeuppance” later on the in the movie.
Second, the EXTREMELY gross dating a teenager subplot of which I had totally forgotten pre-rewatch. Seth Rogen’s character, Dale, a “man” of 25 is dating an 18-year-old senior played by baby-faced Amber Heard. You can sense what the movie is trying to get at, especially as it attempts to make clear that Dale is a stunted loser who eventually realizes he should definitely not be dating an 18-year-old. But it gets really fucking gross when you remember that, not too long ago, James Franco very much actually did attempt to seduce an actual 17-year-old online. And I frankly don’t have enough time left on this planet to unpack the nonsense of writing a subplot supposedly opining the negatives of dating a teenager into your movie and then actually trying to date a goddamn teenager. So that’s a fucking bummer that’ll take you right out of the film.
But, even these two things aside, I can’t say that it’s a movie that transcends the period in which it was made. Though I did see a handful of 10-year tributes on the internet, so apparently there are people out there who would disagree with me. I was actually excited to watch this movie, to recapture something, but it no longer has anything to offer me.
Part 2: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bong
At 17, I was as sober as they came. I was too busy taking too-hard classes and doing too many afterschool activities to get invited to any of the cool parties where I could have access to these things. And it stayed that way for pretty much my whole teenage life. I can probably count on one hand the times I got drunk before 21. In fact, prior to the legalization in WA, I could count on one hand how many times I’d smoked pot. As a teen, I was simultaneously terrified and reverent of the drug, filled with an overwhelming curiosity that was only outmatched by my fear of falling into the depths of drug addiction (I was the #1 student in my D.A.R.E program). And, by the time my curiosity was able to break free of my internal war on drugs, I had no fucking clue how to buy it. But legalization changed that for me… pretty dramatically.
Legalization also dramatically changed the entire context in which I became a “stoner.” Stoner comedies, by their design, deal with the illicit. The need for discretion leads to communal secret sharing, passed down from one person to the next. But without the tutelage of a dealer or supplier, I turned to the only thing I could trust to teach me new things: Google. And let me tell you, there’s nothing cooler about a lone 24-year-old Googling “How to pack a bowl?” and “Difference between roaches and stems?” and “Should I be coughing this much?” In fact, in an ironic twist, I learned how to roll a joint from a video tutorial by none other than Seth Rogen himself. After all, despite my mixed feelings about him as a person, I figured he would be qualified to speak on the topic. This process felt surprisingly banal in comparison to movie shenanigans like Pineapple Express. Like learning how to change the oil in your car. Which feels like the perfect summation of life: getting high but boringly.
There’s a common queer anecdote that queer people live their 20s like the teen years they couldn’t live, for various reasons. I find myself torn between trying to find domestic bliss in an economy that guarantees I’ll never find it and also trying to live out the raucous teen dreams I was afraid to have of partying with abandon. And it ends up landing somewhere in between. On one hand, I still feel 22, cluelessly trying to figure out what adulthood even means and how to pretend I know what I’m doing. On the other hand, I got fucking bills to pay and shit to do and I gotta meal prep with my Instant Pot because I just don’t have any fucking time. And what that ends up looking like is going to work with my buttons all the way up, talking reports and analysis and metrics and then going home, throwing on jorts with a crop top and smoking a joint on the way to Emo Night at the Sunset. A state of perpetual adolescence and impending adulthood. So, I guess in that way I’m like Dale Denton, and weed is a way to balance the reality of life with the desire to not be living it the way you inherently have to….
Actually, fuck that. I would never fucking date an 18-year-old. Gross.