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Pineapple Express (A Movie Review)


Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny R. McBride, Kevin Corrigan, Craig Robinson, Gary Cole, Rosie Perez, Amber Heard, Ed Begley Jr., Nora Dunn, Joe Lo Truglio, Arthur Napiontek, Cleo King, Bill Hader and James Remar.

Screenplay by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

Directed by David Gordon Green.

Distributed by Columbia Pictures. 111 minutes. Rated R.

Seth Rogen has had quite a year. This is the fourth film he has co-written (following Knocked Up, Superbad and Drillbit Taylor) which is hitting the multiplexes in just over a year – three of which he also acted in.

Pineapple Express allows him to re-team with his old friend James Franco – they had played best friends in the acclaimed-but-short-lived TV series Freaks and Geeks. Franco, who has mostly taken advantage of his pretty-boy looks as an actor (The Spider-Man movies, Tristan and Isolde, Flyboys, Annapolis) does a nicely shaggy turn here, growing his hair and never shaving or bathing to create an indelible character which steals most scenes from his co-star.

Rogen plays Dale, a pothead who has a day job as a process server. He spends his days dressing up to drop subpoenas on unsuspecting people, dropping by the local high school to see his way-too-hot-for-him younger girlfriend (Amber Heard) and smoking lots and lots of weed.

His pot dealer is Saul (Franco), a charmingly good-hearted if slightly slow ne'er-do-well who hangs around his grungy apartment watching reruns of 227, playing video games and sampling his merchandise.

When Dale is serving a possible drug dealer, he witnesses the man (Gary Cole) and a female cop (Rosie Perez) shooting a man. When a doobie he drops at the scene points to his identity (in a way that frankly strains against disbelief), he shows up at Saul's apartment. Not sure what exactly to do, he goes on the run with Saul, avoiding drug dealers, mobsters and the Asian underground.

I'm not sure the world was really waiting for the first stoner action movie, but here it is.

The film is actually pretty good until an absurdly, cartoonishly violent climax capsizes the whole enterprise. No one was going to say Pineapple Express was realistic in any way before, but it made a certain amount of sense in its stoner moves. However, a long killing spree in a farmhouse – including guns, planks of wood, automatic weapons, shattered glass, bombs, knifes, explosions, even ninjas and a runaway Daiwoo – destroys any hope of the audience buying anything that has gone on.

It's a shame, because the movie was the best stoner comedy I can remember before that point – although that is not exactly a great honor considering some of the previous stoner comedies made, including Up In Smoke, Meet the Deedles, Grandma's Boy, Half-Baked and Smiley Face. Only Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is in the same ballpark. Then everything just explodes.

I know that Rogen and his mentor, producer Judd Apatow, are trying to make a tribute to (and update of) 80s buddy films. However, the violence usually made some sense to the storyline in those – the main characters were cops or evading them. These are two guys who have nothing else on their mind than finding the best weed. Only through a series of rather unlikely coincidences do they get involved in all the shooting, crashes, stabbing and fighting.

The mayhem is all amped up for the 21st century.

They can't seem to come to terms with the bad guys. In particular the head honcho, played by Gary Cole, fluctuates between ruthless crime boss and goofy stoner. The hit men are hen-pecked and overly sensitive. Only the lady cop is a consistently scary character.

Yet, it is hard to completely sympathize with our heroes either. They are kind of dumb. They are constantly taking smoke breaks, even when on the run for their lives. Also, a scene where they sell pot to some junior high school students is played for laughs. You may be rooting for them to get away, but often that feeling is begrudging, because their odd actions are making everything more difficult and convoluted than it really had to be.

In fact, you consistently get the feeling during the film that everyone involved in the film was certain that it was much more clever than it actually is.

Still, Pineapple Express is good for some hearty chuckles, even if it does come off the rails in the end.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2008 All rights reserved. Posted: August 11, 2008.


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