Rating: 2.5 stars
There’s a certain contract that the creators of a stoner comedy make with the audience: There will be lots of doobie jokes, lots of infantile men over-reacting (and sometimes, drastically under-reacting) to the madcap misadventures they’ve gotten themselves into, and, most importantly, the whole proposition will be amiable, no-consequence fun. While Pineapple Express follows most of the rules of stoner comedy—it’s funny and the pot jokes fly a plenty—it commits a cardinal sin: The violence in this film has consequences—people get maimed and they even die. Duuuuude.
Seth Rogen, channeling a young Albert Brooks, plays Dale Denton, a process server who witnesses a drug kingpin commit a murder and, in his haste to leave the scene, drops the rare strain of pot he was smoking. The drug kingpin (Gary Cole), who has ties to Dale’s dealer, Saul Silver (James Franco), immediately recognizes the contents of the roach: Pineapple Express pot. Now both Saul and Dale are on the run.
The best thing about Pineapple Express is Franco’s Saul, a happy wanderer, who, when he isn’t sitting on his couch howling over The Jeffersons reruns, visits his “bubbe” in a retirement home. Franco is just doing another iteration on the stoner dude we’ve seen many times before—from Spicoli to Keanu’s Ted—but he brings to the character a blissed-out sweetness all his own.
The shlubby and neurotic Rogen is also funny—if less of a revelation—and they make a gloriously incompetent and spastic pair as they try to elude the bad guys. (At one point, while they’re being chased by Rosie Perez’s corrupt cop, Franco simply stops driving. Some barely firing synapse must’ve remembered a somewhat similar strategy working in a movie he saw once. Of course, in this case, Perez screeches next to them and begins shooting. “I thought she’d drive past us,” Saul demures.)
Pineapple Express is yet another film from the increasingly less reliable Judd Apatow comedy factory—in this case, directed by arthouse auteur, David Gordon Green, a curious choice. At it’s best, it has a kind of sublime silliness, but it’s not nearly as affecting or insightful as Apatow's best work. Plus, all that extreme violence left me with a bad taste in my mouth. In short, it harshed my mellow.