Pineapple Express (2008)

4 Apr


Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Imagine you like to smoke pot—like, a lot—and then you witness a murder by a pot farmer who definitely wants you hunted down and killed. How do you stay alive? Stay sober. It takes the “heroes” in the action-stoner-comedy “Pineapple Express” a long time to figure that one out. And when they do, it’s a pretty good subtext. After all of the crazy stuff that they get into, it’s almost guaranteed that they won’t want to get stoned again.

After “Cheech and Chong” come Dale and Saul—two American stoners. Dale (Seth Rogen) is a twentysomething-year-old process server whose girlfriend is in high school. Saul (James Franco) is his weed dealer. These two guys are sloppy enough for us to laugh at them. They’re not quite Cheech and Chong, or even Harold and Kumar, but I could see a TV series put somewhere in the scenes where the two American stoners hang out together in Saul’s apartment.

When Dale is about to deliver a subpoena to druglord Ted (Gary Cole), he witnesses Ted and a female cop (Rosie Perez) commit murder. Dale panics and flees, making a lot of noise while doing so. Frightened, Dale turns to Saul, and soon, the two are on the run.

That leads to silly, funny, and sometimes exciting action sequences for these characters to fall into—they get chased by the female cop in a car chase (the funny twist there is that their car has a red Slushee spilled all over the windshield), they get in a fight with the hilariously-unreliable Red (Danny McBride), and at the end, they wind up in a “Scarface”-inspired massacre between the drug lord and the Asian competition. And Dale and Saul are stoned throughout most of the situations that occur; during that massacre, it’s unclear if they’re still stoned or smart enough to know that whenever they’re stoned, bad things happen. Maybe this will teach them a lesson.

“Pineapple Express” was produced by Judd Apatow, who also produced R-rated comedy hits “Knocked Up” and “Superbad,” and as if predictably, there are a lot of big laughs in it—I like the part where the two are tied up and use a strange method of trying to get out. However, be advised—this is just as profane as “Superbad.”

There are also some winning performances by Seth Rogen and James Franco and also, Danny McBride, who betrays the two heroes a few times; and despite getting shot multiple times and being blown up, he comes back like Wile E. Coyote. There are a couple of things wrong with Seth Rogen’s character—I mean, he’s funny here (he always is funny in everything he’s in), but it’s almost hard to root for a guy who sells weed to high school students and makes out with his girlfriend (smokin’ hot Amber Heard) by her locker. But by the end, we learn to dismiss all of that.

James Franco gives the best performance in the movie as the weed dealer obviously inspired by Brad Pitt’s character in “True Romance.”  He’s very funny here, and thankfully, he doesn’t bring the annoyance of Jay (of “Jay and Silent Bob” fame) or even Daffy Duck to this character. He’s simply a guy who is confused most of the time (because he’s stoned most of the time).

The three actors I’ve mentioned bring comic timing in this film. If someone like Liam Neeson, Daniel Craig, or even Sylvester Stallone took this on, it would have just been your basic action film. Ed Begley, Jr. and Nora Dunn make funny cameos in a scene set in Dale’s girlfriend’s house—a scene that I probably wouldn’t have liked if they hadn’t shown up.

Director David Gordon Green, whose previous work included indie films “George Washington,” “Undertow,” and “Snow Angels,” is the last director you’d expect to direct this Judd Apatow stoner-comedy/action picture, but he does such a good job at keeping the action and the comedy on mostly the same level—it seems almost like a stoner version of “The Blues Brothers,” which also mixed action and comedy. With great comic timing, a brilliant performance by James Franco, and some nifty (though very violent) action sequences, “Pineapple Express” is the movie that the second “Harold and Kumar” movie wanted to be.

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