Monday, August 04, 2008

Huey's too black sounding for me.


Try as I might, I really can't get a good read on the upcoming summer stoner blockbuster "Pineapple Express." Unlike last summer's Apatow/Rogen efforts "Knocked Up" and "Superbad," when I saw the film's trailer there was hardly a LOL to be found from me let alone any real desire to see it. The whole affair just looked kind of dumb, but not in a really funny way. I admit I do have a bit of a bias against the stoner film genre (it's kind of like soccer in that it's far more enjoyable to be doing the activity then watching other people doing it) and frankly I've grown tired of the Seth Rogan pothead film persona, which we can now safely conclude is his actual persona. From what I've gathered, the plot presented (two stoners getting chased by gangsters) also seemed so linear and uninteresting. Even the name seemed odd and ill fitting in a Quantum of Solace sort of way (the wikipedia article about the Pineapple Express weather phenomenon just confused me more). However, based on the stellar track record of Apatow and crew and the apparently positive reception I've been reading, I cannot completely write it off yet and am still cautiously optimistic that they've got another summer classic on their hands. Even the consensus around the people I talk to seem to be that it'll be a straight up bone fide hit and that whatever possible short comings that the movie will most likely get a pass based on all the positive rep the filmmakers have built up over the last few years.

Regardless of whether the film sinks or swims, it has already pulled off one major coup: "Pineapple Express" by Huey Lewis and the News! I had heard about a month back that the film's producers had reached out to Huey and the boys to write a theme song for the film, specifically in the general style of vintage 80s era Huey Lewis. However, I never expected that request to actually be answered, let alone result in such an awesome song!

The very fact that the movie has an actual theme song is a enough of an admirably rare throwback to the past. Outside of the traditional Bond movies, long gone are the days when high profile movies required high profile theme songs that referenced things right in the film. Sure somebody still wins the best song Oscar every year but they usual pale in comparison to movie song monsters like "The Morning After" or "Arthur's Theme" or "My Heart Will Go On". So for a film looking for a good old fashioned old school theme song it's an inspired choice to turn to a group like Huey and the News who know a thing or two about classic soundtrack hits ("Back in Time", "Power of Love", and depending on who you ask "Ghostbusters").

Of course the idea is well and good but it's the execution that really blows me away. HL&N has managed to flawlessly capture the band's classic 80s era sound. It's as if the song was originally written and recorded in 1986 to be the 11th track on "Fore!" and was just sealed away in some vault, only to be recovered twenty some odd years later. Every detail that makes up a classic Huey track can be found in this song. Uplifting horn section? Check! Sassy sax solo right in the middle? Check! The husky, psedo-bluesy, 60s R&B vocals of Mr. Lewis? Check! Completely literal, simple, straightforward lyrics without a trace of irony? Check! Unbearable catchiness? Check! A professional sheen of everyman, bar band-ness that covers the entire track? Double check!

In the end though, is it really any surprise that "Pineapple Express" seems like such a perfect throwback? While I can't speak for the rest of the News, if you look at Huey Lewis now, it is down right Dick Clark-like how little he has changed in nearly a quarter century. It's like he sleeps in some sort of specially made stay fresh hyperbolic chamber or bathes in the blood of a 100 virgins every night. The effect is even more dramatic when you look at how cruel father time has absolutely ravaged fellow 80s contemporaries like Billy Joel, Greg Kihn, and Eddie Money (although you got to admit the Money man never really had it all together in the first place). So given that Huey's body is perfectly preserved in the mid 80s, it is not all that surprising that Huey's music would be as well.

Now, I see a lot of petitions on Facebook demanding that the Academy honor the late Heath Ledger with a posthumous Oscar for his role as the Joker. I for one would like to see a global petition calling for the Academy to award Huey Lewis and the News with a posthumous career (as we all know the band's career died a tragic death, murdered at the hands of alternative rock right around to time of the release of "Hard at Play" in 1991) Oscar for Best Song. I mean such posthumous career awards certainly not unprecedented (Phil Collins in 1999, Melissa Etheridge in 2006) and I think the Academy owes them one for picking Lionel Ritchie's "Say You, Say Me" over "Power of Love" in '85.
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I'm calling it here first. Come February the Academy voters will all be taking a ride on the "Pineapple Express."

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