Pineapple Express a stoner comedy that’s actually funny
August 7, 2008
David Gordon Green, that poet of the cinema, is the last person youd expect to find directing a Judd Apatow male-buddy comedy about two potheads who start a drug war. But he does such a good job theres a danger hell become in demand by mainstream Hollywood and tempted away from the greatness he showed in George Washington and Undertow. (I can imagine his agent hiding this review from him.)Pineapple Express has all the elements youd expect from the genre: male bonding, immature sexual desires, verbal scatology, formidable drug abuse, fight scenes, gunfire, explosions. Yawn? Not this time. Its a quality movie even if the material is unworthy of the treatment. As a result, yes, its a druggie comedy that made me laugh.The heroes are a process server named Dale (Seth Rogen) and his drug dealer, Saul (James Franco). Both are stoned in every single scene. Dale has a romance going with Angie (Amber Heard), who I hope is of legal age, although physical sex isnt necessarily involved. I think Dale is still at the age of emotional development where going all the way means asking a girl to go steady. Saul is even more pathetic, hiding in his apartment filled with electronic gizmos and merchandise.Dale drops in on Saul one day to buy some weed, and Saul gives him a sample of a new product just imported by his connection. This is Pineapple Express, a blend of marijuana so sublime, he says, that even smoking it is a crime like killing a unicorn. Dale gets high on the aroma alone. Floating away from Sauls after an hallucinatory conversation, he goes to serve a summons on Ted Jones (Gary Cole), the very man Saul gets his pot from.Parked in front of the house for one last toke, Dale is horrified to see a squad car parked behind him and throws away the joint. Then he has a front-row seat to witness, through a huge glass wall, a man being shot dead by Ted and a female cop (Rosie Perez). He speeds away, leaving Ted to find the joint, sample it, identify it, and know that the murder witness bought it from Saul. The buddies know Ted will make this connection and begin a desperate flight from Teds incompetent hit men. This leads them into a funny stumble through a forest preserve, the loss of their car, and Dales attempt to plausibly sit through dinner with Angies parents (Ed Begley Jr. and Nora Dunn) while stoned, bleeding, torn, disheveled, and in need of being hosed down.The critic James Berardinelli observes: A lot of buddy films arent fundamentally that different from romantic comedies. The relationships are often developed in the same fashion, only with male bonding replacing sexual chemistry. Does that make Dale and Saul gay, even if theyre not aware of it? I think that describes the buddies in a lot of buddy movies produced by Judd Apatow, including the recent Step Brothers. Especially in the obligatory happy ending, theres a whole lot of hugging and chanting of I love you, man!A third major character enters the scene when Dale and Saul visit Sauls buddy, Red (Danny McBride), who has already betrayed them to the hit men. All of this leads, dont ask how, to a full-scale war between Teds men and a rival drug empire, the Asians, who attack conveniently dressed in matching black uniforms, which makes them easy targets under the sunlamps of Teds indoor pot farm. Many, many people die horribly, none more thoroughly than poor Rosie Perez.Two teams have met to make this picture: the Apatow production line, and Green and his cameraman, Tim Orr, sound man Chris Gebert, actor Danny McBride, and others he met at the North Carolina School of the Arts. As always, even in their zero-budget first effort, they use widescreen compositions with graceful visual instincts, although you may be excused for not noticing them, considering what happens. The movie has the usual chase, this time between two squad cars, but to my amazement I found it exciting and very funny, especially the business about Sauls leg.Pineapple Express is the answer to the question, What would happen if a movie like this was made by a great director? This question descends directly from those old rumors that Stanley Kubrick was going to make a porn film. Give it a moments thought. And I suspect Green of foiling Apatows vow to include at least one penis in every one of his comedies. This time, its not a penis but a finger, and a good thing, too.
The Pineapple Express Columbia presents a film directed by David Gordon Green. Produced by Judd Apatow and Shauna Robertson. Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Photographed by Tim Orr. Edited by Craig Alpert. Music by Graeme Revell. Running time: 112 minutes. Classified: R (for pervasive language, drug use, sexual references and violence). Rated: Three and a half stars.
Ann HornadayThe Washington PostWhen I was growing up, my mom brought home a poster from a local hippie boutique that featured the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg standing in the snow with a sign that read Pot is fun. That image came back in a giddy rush during Pineapple Express, a weed-fueled comedy that seems to have been designed to prove Ginsberg right.Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Superbad) with the Midas-touched Judd Apatow producing, this by turns inspired, goofy and finally weirdly hyper-violent celebration of male bonding and chronic Peter Panism joins such classics as Up in Smoke and the Harold & Kumar oeuvre in its sunny, raunchy acceptance of its own idiocy. But its also shot through with a sly critique of drug laws that criminalize marijuana.Like so many Apatow vehicles, Pineapple Express is geared to one demographic: libidinous and, in this case, stoned teen-age boys. The movie is jam-packed with jokes, sight gags and set pieces guaranteed to appeal to the audiences sense of the preposterous.The thing is, its hilariously funny, in large part because Franco beloved to fans of Apatows TV show Freaks and Geeks infuses Saul with so much charm and naivete.