Critics have made a lot of David Gordon Green’s alleged descent from Malick-esque indie poet to studio comedy hack, and his subsequent “return to form” with this summer’s ‘Prince Avalanche.’ It’s a narrative addressed in nearly every review of that new release; how Green seemed to have squandered the talent he showed with subtle dramas ‘George Washington’ and ‘All the Real Girls’ by joining school friend (and ‘All the Real Girls’ actor) Danny McBride in the Apatowian world of crass Hollywood comedy.
This is the thing, though. ‘George Washington’ and ‘All the Real Girls’ are masterpieces, in my opinion. So quiet, moving, and deeply observed that you often feel like a voyeur into the most private moments of real people’s lives. They are tremendous, and some of my favorite movies. But ‘Pineapple Express,’ the stoner-action-comedy that launched Green’s career as a wrangler of A-list comic actors, is a masterpiece, too. It’s a whole entire shit-load better, in fact, than ‘Undertow,’ his previous indie drama that was actually produced by the master himself, Terence Malick. That movie, filled with Avid farts and false-ringing drama, signaled the need for the director to move on to new pastures. And he did. Far more jarringly than anyone could have guessed, but with the same success that he’d had with his first movies.
As the critical battle for David Gordon Green’s soul rages on, most members of the Early DGG Hipster tribe will give you ‘Pineapple Express.’ There’s nothing else that feels like it, it looks great, and it’s fucking hilarious. “Pineapple Express was ok,” they’ll say, “but what about that other crap he made after that?” “That other crap” refers to ‘Your Highness’ and ‘The Sitter,’ R-rated comedy vehicles for (respectively) Danny McBride and Jonah Hill, both released in 2011.
This is the thing, though. Green knew exactly what he was doing with these seemingly low-aming comedies, and he does it just as well as he did “deep” drama. ‘Your Highness’ is not making fun of 80’s high fantasy films, it’s a fundamentally inspired, comedic re-working of that sorta silly genre. If ‘Krull’ had good FX, a functional script, and actors capable of exploiting how goofy their costumes really were, it would be ‘Your Highness.’ Also if they smoked weed in that movie. But hey. It’s a very funny, entertaining, and smart comedy that also works as an adventure, a credit to writer/star McBride and his director. It hits its mark, like, all of the time. It has a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, which I can’t fathom. A lot of the dislike could be attributed to backlash against McBride’s over-saturation. The second season of his great HBO show, ‘Eastbound and Down’ (which Green sometimes directs and helps write), in which McBride plays basically the same character, had just wrapped up, accompanied by cameos and small rolls in a million other comedies. But the hatred is DEEP, with critics seeming to enjoy going to town on this “failure,” calling it un-funny, boring, and stupid. Now, as Ebert famously said, “there are two things you can’t argue in film: comedy and erotica. If something doesn’t make you laugh, no one can tell you why it’s funny, and likewise, it’s hard to argue someone out of an erection. ” So I can’t say for sure that all of these critics really failed to connect with the comedy of ‘Your Highness.’ But while enjoying the hell out of the movie today, the bashings started to reek of group-think. The movie also gave me an erection.
I won’t lie. I haven’t seen ‘The Sitter.’ It might be worthless. I doubt it, but it’s possible. In fact, I’ll give you that it’s a huge, irredeemable piece of shit, and raise you that, even with that huge irredeemible piece of shit on his resume, David Gordon Green, master of crude Hollywood comedies, is just as valuable to cinema as David Gordon Green, master of the arthouse. No one makes movies like he does. And whatever he wants to make, I want to watch. Dude is good.