Mega Review: Tropic Thunder vs Pineapple Express!
by Andy Adair
July 28, 2008
Last Friday night at Comic-Con, the FS.net crew was invited to back-to-back screenings of Pineapple Expresss and Tropic Thunder, two highly anticipated upcoming comedies. Instead of looking at each individually, I thought it would be fun to review both action/comedies together in a "mega review." While they each have their own individual merits, when you see two similar action comedies so closely together, unfortunately one of them is bound to come out on top as the better movie. While I laughed my ass off at Pineapple Express, it was Tropic Thunder that I ended up surpassing my expectations and enjoying more. Whether or not you need to make a decision between these two eventually, let's take a quick back-to-back look at both movies in our second official mega review.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Is it wrong to see a movie and want to get high throughout the entire film? Smoking pot has never been so cool, as Seth Rogen and James Franco star in Judd Apatow's newest creation. From start to finish, this looks and feels like an Apatow film. However, it doesn't quite do for me what his previous films like 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad did. It feels like the action in the film (which was done surprisingly well) took a little bit away from our own relationship with each character, but in spots it adds to the comedy visually. It almost seems unfair to compare this and the previous Apatow films, because this was tagged from the beginning as an action/comedy, yet it still doesn't seem to ever reach the levels that his previous films did. Even though it has minor flaws, Pineapple Express has solid dialogue that will be sure to keep you laughing the entire time - there's certainly no question about that.
Throughout the film, our story follows Dale Denton and Saul Silver (Rogen and Franco respectively). Denton is a process server who smokes a lot of weed. His dealer, Silver, is a lazy guy selling drugs to pay for his grandmother's retirement home. When Denton isn't serving his summons to the people of Southern California, he is smoking weed and dating his 18-year old girlfriend (played by the gorgeous Amber Heard), who is in fact still in high school. Denton goes to buy weed when Silver reveals a new type of marijuana called "Pineapple Express." According to Silver, it's the ultimate marijuana. Denton buys some and hits the road with a joint in hand; as he arrives at the house of his next delivery, he ends up witnessing a murder. Denton throws out the roach and heads back to Silver's in quite a panic. Without giving away too much, this is where the shit hits the fan and the story kicks into high gear, providing many laughs along the way.
While Rogen does his usual average guy character, the true star of this film is James Franco. He channels his inner "Freaks and Geeks" (if you have ever seen the show you will understand exactly what I mean) and plays the most hilarious drug dealer in any movie to date. Even Apatow himself called Franco the "new king of comedy" at the screening we were at. From his actions to his dialogue to his quirkiness, he will absolutely keep you laughing the whole time.
Rating: 9 out of 10
I have to admit that I was trying to hold back all excitement for Tropic Thunder. My expectations were pretty high, but I didn't want to put myself in a position to be disappointed. I know that the cast is fantastic and there have been some great viral videos from Stiller, Black, and Downey Jr., but the whole idea was a bit suspect to me. Not only did it work, it exceeded all expectations that I had, perhaps being my favorite action/comedy this year (in obvious competition with Pineapple Express). Downey Jr. puts down a fantastic performance and Stiller goes back to doing what he does best - being Ben Stiller! The comedy in this film will keep you laughing, no matter how disturbing and off color the humor might be.
The film opens with a few fake trailers for new movies due out soon. These, however, are no ordinary trailers, they're mock trailers for the Thunder's main characters. These mock-ups set the tone for each character in the film and they are comedy gold. We then move on to the opening shots of the actual Vietnam War movie that they are supposed to filming. It looks fairly good from the start and continues to go smoothly until a close up of Lazarus (Downey Jr.) and Speedman (Stiller) gets a little too emotional. The chemistry between the actors is part of what makes this movie work so damn well. At this point, the director realizes that there is no way he can control them and goes to a war vet for advice. It's simple - all they need to do is drop the actors out into the real jungle, which unfortunately turns out to be hostile territory full of pissed off drug framers. From there, mayhem ensues as they attempt to survive and act at the same time.
There is an equal amount of sight gags mixed with great dialogue in Tropic Thunder and it all comes together really well. There are two characters that absolutely shine above the rest. The first is Robert Downey Jr. - his role as Kirk Lazarus (a highly touted Australian actor that has surgery to become a black man) seems at first look to be quite a stretch, but he couldn't have done a better job. There were even times when I would look at Lazarus and not see Downey Jr. at all; it was a phenomenal job for an action/comedy. The second actor that stole the show wasn't Stiller, Black, or Danny McBride, it was none other than Tom Cruise! However, I won't spoil anything further than that, because his reveal is truly hilarious.
Since the action/comedy tag is put on both Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder, a comparison is undoubtedly necessary. Where the action scenes sometimes didn't work for me in Pineapple, they succeeded in Thunder. From numerous hilarious cameos to solid acting, Tropic Thunder is a great film from start to finish. Pineapple Express is great as well, but it is exactly what you'd expect from Apatow and company. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but Thunder exceeds all expectations; I honestly didn't thing it would be that funny. If you have the time and money, please, by all means go see both of these films, because since they are both action/comedies, they are both funny in their own individual way.