Film Friday: ‘Pineapple Express’ & ‘Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants 2’

by W. Andrew Powell

Pineapple Express

A scene from Pineapple Express

This week, the stoners are running for their lives in the Pineapple Express, while those well-patched jeans are back for another summer as The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants 2 ventures into the girlie hamper. Other new arrivals this week include the documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired, and the based-on-a-true-story wine drama Bottle Shock.

Pineapple Express
Tired of hearing about this Judd Apatow guy? Since 2004 the man has produced or written (and in some cases, both) ten big budget comedies. Of those, five of his films pulled in over $100 million at the North American box office alone. And yet, it seems like every time he comes out with a new film we have to hear the same tired, old line: “From the guys who brought you Superbad…” I get it, that was a successful film, but do you have any other good films up your sleeves, Mr. Apatow?

Apparently, the answer is finally: yes.

Seth Rogen and James Franco star in this stoner action comedy as two lovable pot smokers who get caught up in a murder cover-up that has a crooked cop and a drug kingpin ready to put them out of their misery. And for once this isn’t the weed talking.

Directed by the well-respected David Gordon Green, who wrote and directed All the Real Girls and Undertow, the film nevertheless has Apatow’s usual wit written all over it. Crazy action sequences, silly jokes, drugs, and of course, Seth Rogen. It also appears to be one of the first major comedies Franco has been involved in to date, and could be fairly career-changing if it’s as good as critics are suggesting.

Critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a surprising 3 1/2 stars, and wrote in his review that the film answers the question, “What would happen if a movie like this was made by a great director?”

Rafer Guzman of Newsday takes another stance on the film, calling it “uneven but entertaining” while answering a similar question: “What if someone gave Cheech and Chong a shot of testosterone and a couple of Uzis?”

With The Dark Knight still claiming a strong hold on the top box office bucks, the final question is whether Pineapple Express can dismount the charging behemoth. Considering that Apatow’s most recent film debuts have snagged respectable openings in the $30 million range, and The Dark Knight is bound to lose at least a few million off of last weekend’s $42 million take, it could be a close race, but I’d say the stoners have it in them to be champions.

The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants 2
Sporting one of the clunkiest titles of the year, SOTP 2 reunites fans with the four young women who first shared their jeans three years ago. All four original stars return, including America Ferrara, Rachel Nichols, Alexis Bledel and Amber Tamblyn, and in the sequel they’re heading off to college as they also start to drift apart. With the jeans only in tow for some of the film, the focus is on how these women are growing up, and how the issues of adulthood are affecting them.

And while the story is sweet and ready to tug at your heartstrings, it is the cast that is getting the praise for making the audience care. “Despite the flaws, the movie is reasonably pleasant most of the time,” said Randy Cordova of the Arizona Republic. “Some of that is leftover goodwill from the first film, but it is also a tribute to the four starring actresses.”

Other new arrivals in select cities…

Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired
Director Roman Polanski’s fall from grace gets the documentary treatment in this notable film that not only examines the man’s trial, but the people who shaped the events as well. Blending modern day interviews with historical footage, the film avoids pointing fingers at Polanski’s wrongdoing and instead focuses on the people involved, especially on the way judge Laurence Rittenban took advantage of the case to cast the spotlight his way.

Bottle Shock
Loosly chronicling the first big breakthrough for California’s wine industry, Bottle Shock is an earthy drama that juggles real events with drama and heart.

Bill Pullman and Chris Pine star as the father and son duo behind the deeply indebted Chateau Montelena vinyard. Through a plucky Frenchman, played by Alan Rickman, a blind taste-test is devised that will set some of the best French wine against the American usurpers.

The outcome is predictable, but that shouldn’t really detract from the story.

“If movies were wine,” Ty Burr of the Boston Globe wrote in his review, “Bottle Shock would be a pleasant varietal you’d find on the half-price shelf. Nothing fancy but tasty nonetheless.”

Opening next week:
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Tropic Thunder
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Fly Me to the Moon

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