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'Pineapple Express' Movie Review

Marijuana, Murder and Man Love

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

By

'Pineapple Express' Movie Review

James Franco and Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express.

© Columbia Pictures
Judd Apatow watched True Romance and wondered what would happen if Brad Pitt's stoner character was the focus of that film. From that little 'what if?' question, the idea for Pineapple Express was born. Two members of Apatow's pack – Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg – crafted the screenplay, which was very loosely used in the film, and came up with a new stoner comedy (one that doesn't involve those Harold & Kumar dudes). Pineapple Express is dopey fun with its pot jokes and lowbrow humor, and the film's target audience should walk away feeling pretty high about this crazy action comedy from the Apatow crew.

The Story

Seth Rogen plays process server Dale Denton, a man of many disguises who loves the gotcha moments when an unsuspecting doctor or husband or whoever finds his or herself on the receiving end of a Dale-delivered subpoena. Dale's not bad at his job, he's got a pretty 18 year old high school senior (Amber Heard) as a girlfriend, and his pot dealer, Saul (James Franco), keeps him well supplied with weed.

However, Dale's sweet life turns sour when Saul offers him a new strain of pot named Pineapple Express. It's the best weed on the planet and very rare. So rare that when Dale witnesses a lady cop (Rosie Perez) and one of the city's major drug dealers (Gary Cole) – a guy Dale was casing in order to subpoena - murdering someone, he's identified by the killers by the joint he tossed out of the car window when trying to flee the scene.

Unable to fully understand what he's just seen, Dale finds himself at a total loss as to where to turn. He's high, he's just seen a stranger shot to death in front of his very stoned eyes, and now he's scared out of his drug-addled mind. So where does he run to? His friendly neighborhood pot dealer, of course.

James Franco, Danny McBride and Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express.

© Columbia Pictures
After wiping the drug haze from Saul's eyes by explaining the ultra-serious nature of their predicament, the two hit the road without a plan but with large amounts of pot and a handful of munchies. Car chases and lots of physical comedy antics ensue as the bad guys try to snuff the life out of the pot-smoking duo. As the net tightens, Saul and Dale transform from bumbling stoners into bumbling action heroes who discover the importance of friendship. Ahhh, how sweet!

The Cast

Rogen, Franco and Apatow first worked together on Freaks and Geeks, a short-lived TV comedy which helped launch lots of careers (Jason Segel, Linda Cardellini, etc., etc., etc.). After it went off the air, Franco was in demand but pretty much left the comedy world behind for dramatic fare (including a lead role in the Spider-Man franchise). Franco's return to comedy is a long time coming, and it appears as though he made the right choice in choosing Pineapple Express to use as his vehicle for returning to the genre.

Meanwhile Franco's Freaks and Geeks co-star Rogen struggled for a few years before becoming one of the most sought after funny guys in Hollywood today. Reuniting onscreen for Pineapple Express, Rogen and Franco are a great team, with Rogen taking on more of the straight guy to Franco's big-hearted, strangely optimistic goofball character. And when the action kicks in, Franco of course handles it well. The real surprise is how comfortable Rogen looks running from bad guys, getting into fist fights, taking spills, and handling all manner of weapons. Maybe his upcoming starring role in The Green Hornet isn't quite as bizarre of a casting choice as it initially appeared.

Rogen and Franco are surrounded in Pineapple Express by a batch of very capable comic actors led by Danny McBride. McBride plays the middle-man between Gary Cole's character and Franco's, and is involved in a full-on slapstick-ish brawl with Rogen and Franco. McBride gets the short end of the deal and winds up duct-taped to a chair (that doesn't translate in print as well as it works in the film). Also showing up for a bit of hilarity is The Office's Craig Robinson who teams up with Kevin Corrigan to play hit men for Gary Cole.

Seth Rogen and James Franco in Pineapple Express.

© Columbia Pictures
The Bottom Line

It's actually surprising just how much of an action movie Pineapple Express turned out to be. Based on the clips and trailers, you'd think all Rogen and Franco do is smoke pot, talk about smoking pot, or get ready to smoke pot. And there is a lot of pot smoking in Pineapple Express – it drives the comedy – but as with most Apatow comedies, there's also a lot of touching male bonding rolled into the mix.

Pineapple Express works because it's funny without being preachy and over-the-top without being ridiculous - even when Rogen and Franco grab machine guns and go all commando on the bad guys. Pineapple Express also works because of the natural-feeling interplay between Rogen and Franco. A lot of that has to do with their improvising much of the dialogue, but it's also due to the direction of David Gordon Green (Snow Angels) who tackles his first big-budget studio comedy with Pineapple Express.

On a scale of Apatow movies, I'd rank Pineapple Express well below Knocked Up but just slightly below Superbad, and a step above Step Brothers. But your enjoyment of it is really going to depend on your tolerance for pot humor (not to be confused with potty humor) and your ability to just completely suppress any urge to apply logic to the storyline. And for those of you wondering, you definitely don't have to be high to enjoy a trip on the Pineapple Express.

GRADE: B

Pineapple Express was directed by David Gordon Green and is rated R for pervasive language, drug use, sexual references and violence.

Theatrical Release Date: August 6, 2008

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