Screenwriters: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Rosie Perez, Gary Cole, Danny R. McBride, Kevin Corrigan
Running Time: 111 mins
As stoner comedies go, Pineapple Express juices more than the average quota of laughs from a typically hare-brained plot. Seth Rogen does another variation on the man-child persona that shot him to fame in Knocked Up, and again pools resources with fellow writer-producer Judd Apatow. They make an inspired partnership, but it’s James Franco who is the surprise package this time, co-starring with Rogen as his emotionally clingy dope dealer. His jaw, which was so firmly set in the Spider-Man movies, is slackened to gaping point, totally banishing that ersatz James Dean angst in favour of, you know, just chilling out, dude.
Life coasts along at a leisurely pace for Dale Denton (Rogen). He serves subpoenas for a living because that slots in nicely between driving around and smoking pot. That is until around 4ish when his girlfriend (Amber Heard) gets off from school. But if Dale is going nowhere, then Saul (Franco) is rooted to the spot. He deals drugs from the comfort of his moth-eaten sofa, but it’s a lonely existence and he latches on to Dale for the banter. There are chuckles aplenty from the outset as Dale, feeling awkward, is held captive by Saul with a lot of baked-brained chitchat about his dearest nana and the virtues of euthanasia…
As you'd expect from a film co-penned by Rogen, the dialogue is quotably delirious. Dale, being a preferred customer, gets first taste of a premium batch of Hawaiian hash dubbed Pineapple Express. "It's almost a shame to smoke it," says Saul. "It's like killing a unicorn... with, like, a bomb." That night, Dale is consuming the goods in his car when he witnesses a brutal murder at an LA mansion. Rosie Perez does her wasp-chewing chikita routine as the corrupt 'Lady Cop' who pulls the trigger at the behest of sleazy mobster, Ted (a wink-wink turn by Gary Cole of Midnight Caller fame). In this sequence alone, reality is tipped way off centre, but that sets the tone for a hybrid tale filled with blood splatter and stoner silliness.
In his haste to flee the crime scene, Dale drops his joint so it's relatively easy (in this madcap universe, anyway) for Ted and the Lady Cop to sniff his trail back to Saul's place. When the fog clears and Dale realises his mistake, he packs Saul into his car and they hit the road. Of course neither dude has a clue where they're going, but it's a wild trip in more ways than one. There is no limit to the absurdity of situations they find themselves in, whether it's inadvertently freaking each other out in the woods after dark, or a clumsy car chase where Saul is forced to drive with his foot through the windshield. Whenever drug-induced lethargy creeps in, director David Gordon Green ups the ante with a dose of high-octane action.
The gear shifts aren't always smooth though. Danny R. McBride has some brilliantly funny moments as Red - Saul’s double-crossing dope dealer friend - but his comic misadventures are frequently punctuated by shocking violence. It's unsettling at times and, overall, this crash-bang caper isn't as punchy as it could be at nearly two hours long. Green has a better feel for the character dynamics, which perhaps isn't surprising as he's best known for low-key indie flicks such as Jamie Bell vehicle Undertow and romance yarn All The Real Girls. He certainly has a cute couple to work with in Rogen and Franco who, despite acting like losers, have a winning rapport. Only the most joyless of 'straight' citizens would fail to be tickled by their bumbling efforts at male bonding and, in the end, that feel-good factor overrides occasional moments of discomfort. If you could stick it in a pipe, you'd smoke it.