‘Pineapple Express’: Dopey fun

Tue, 08/05/2008 - 2:54pm
By: Michael Boylan

There are many types of “stoner comedies” in your local video store. From the cult classic “Reefer Madness,” with its over the top, creepy propaganda, to Cheech and Chong’s “Up in Smoke,” which lazily wanders around numerous sequences that sort of resemble a plot. More recent entries in the genre include Richard Linklater’s classic tribute to high school tomfoolery, “Dazed and Confused,” and the criminally underrated “Half-Baked,” starring Dave Chapelle before he flaked out. One could even argue that “Knocked Up” is a bit of a stoner comedy since Seth Rogen’s character is quite the stoner before realizing he needed to grow up and take responsibility. Rogen returns in a definitive entry in the pot comedy canon with “Pineapple Express.”

Rogen plays Dale Denton, a pot-smoking process server who is dating a high school senior. His new dealer is Saul Silver, played by James Franco, a pajama wearing “227” fan with all sorts of high tech entertainment in his crappy apartment but no friends to share it with. Saul sells Dale some very rare product and Dale tosses some of it out after witnessing a mob hit. The weed is so rare that the mob finds out quickly where it came from and soon Dale and Saul are on the run from the mob, crooked cops and more.

So, yes, like many stoner comedies, “Pineapple Express” has a very loose plot. However, this film is different than most marijuana-themed movies because it becomes a sort of action movie with mostly believable action while still remaining very funny. Like many other Judd Apatow-produced comedies (“Knocked Up,” “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” “Superbad,”), the characters, at least the main ones, all stay very real. So, when the two get embroiled in a fist fight with someone, they aren’t awesome at fighting and performing highly choreographed maneuvers. In the big finale, when they stumble upon the bad guys’ large stockpile of automatic weapons, they can fire them, but not well or properly.

These two idiots are not Jason Bourne.

They are funny, though, as “sort of friends” who find themselves having to stick together to survive and their relationship and chemistry is what gives “Pineapple Express” an extra kick. Rogen and Franco first worked together on Apatow’s critically acclaimed and cancelled-too-soon TV show “Freaks and Geeks,” and both can pull off the comedy and the action in this film. The movie also has some killer performances from Danny McBride, who seems to show up in every major comedy film and do well, as well as Kevin Corrigan and Craig Ferguson as two of the main bad guy’s hit men. It was nice to see Rosie Perez in a big movie again and Ed Begley Jr. is quite funny in his one scene.

Give director David Gordon Green a lot of credit for keeping it real. He gives the movie room to breathe early on and establish its rhythm and then punches things up in a terrific finish. Things get so real in the climax of the film that you will likely be shocked, but you will also be glad that you gave a “stoner comedy” a chance.

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