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Pineapple Express (2008) ***1/2

August 8, 2008

Pineapple Express (2008) poster

written by: Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg
produced by: Judd Apatow & Shauna Robertson
directed by: David Gordon Green
rated R  (for pervasive language, drug use, sexual references and violence)
111 min.
U.S. Release date: August 6, 2008
DVD & Blu-ray release date: January 6, 2009
I’ve never smoked pot or weed or whatever ya wanna call it. Nope. I’ve never “taken a hit”, inhaled or rolled a joint (although I’ve been to some concerts where the air was quite….ripe) in my entire life. I’ve never even been curious to partake in drugs, not to mention I’d never know where to procure such an illegal substance. But I gotta admit, I do find movies revolving around the unbelievable and hilarious adventures of stoned losers entertaining. Of course, there are dud films out there covering this genre (yes, we have to say it actually is a genre) but I’m talking about the classic ones like “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “The Big Lebowski”. So, why do I find some of these stoner films so downright enjoyable?
It could be that stoners are like zombies for me in that they’re just kinda endearing in some twisted and bizarre way. Maybe it’s cuz I’ve never experienced what these characters are so obviously enjoying but I think the sheer cluelessness and stupidity displayed sells me instantly. Sure, smoking weed is serious and can be detrimental but in a comedy that side is seldom covered. Instead we are more than likely to be assured that hilarity will ensueth and in this new Judd Apatow product you can guarantee that happens. In fact, once again, Apatow has the same writers on board that gave us last summer’s hit “Superbad”, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, in hopes that they continue an impressive hit streak. 
Well, it’s kind of a given that this movie is gonna make a lotta cash but I also think critics will take (or should I say toke?) to the earnest delivery of all the actors involved as well as the inspired writing here. The best way to get the most outta a movie like this is to park your brain (duh) and savor the insanity as you witness process server Dale Denton (Rogen) get into unbelievable situations all over some rare weed. Dale’s first problem is that he is perpetually stoned, even while driving to serve various subpoenas as he listens to talk radio. His other problem is he needs more pot. On the way to his dealer, twentysomething Dale checks in with his high school sweetheart, Angie (Amber Heard) who is actually….still in high school. She coerces him to come over to her place for dinner to finally meet her parents. He tries to back out by saying he has to work but he relents, yes Dale is kinda pathetic yet he’s like that old dirty teddy bear that you grew up with and can’t seem to discard.
 Seth Rogen and James Franco in Columbia Pictures' Pineapple Express
He stops in on his slacker dealer, Saul Silver (James Franco, clearly having a good time) to purchase marijuana where Saul introduces him to a rare new strain called Pineapple Express.  So rare in fact that Saul compares smoking it to “killing a unicorn”, which is just one of many baked epiphanies from his hazed mind that we get throughout the film. Saul coerces people-pleasing Dale to share a newly lit crucifix-shaped joint before he heads out to serve a guy named Ted Jones, a name that strikes familiar to Saul as he mentions his dealer’s supplier has the same name. Hmmmm.
Clearly on his way to being certifiably toasted, Dale parks his car outside of Ted Jones (Gary Cole)fancy home and finishes his doobie before getting out to serve Ted. Suddenly he freaks, ducking down outta sight as he sees a squad car pull up! He tosses his joint in the street. The police officer (Rosie Perez) gets out with her gun drawn and makes her way into Ted’s home without noticing Dale. He becomes frozen with curiosity and winds up witnessing the cold-blooded murder of some Chinese guy at the hands of Ted Jones and officer Carol Brazier. At this point, he panics and knows he’s gotta high-tail it outta there. Unfortunately, he makes enough of a ruckus trying to flee that both Ted and Carol hear him. They run out to the street to catch Dale but all that is left is his roach and Ted knows exactly what it is and who’s dealing this on the streets.
Dale races back to Saul’s pad where he finds out that the strain of marijuana is so rare that it could be traced back to both of them. Fearing for his life, he convinces Saul to come with him and make a run for it. They can’t go to the cops. They don’t know who to turn to. They’re scared and they’re stoned. The two hide out in the woods where they get more stoned (surprise!) while playing leapfrog and destroy their cell phones so they can’t be tracked. They eventually come to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to get in touch with Red (the loony Danny McBride), Saul’s in-between guy and connection to Ted. They wanna find out if anyone has talked to Red about who he sold the Pineapple Express to in an effort to find out just how hot they are.
Unbeknownst to them (what isn’t?), Ted has already dispatched two hitmen to track down and get rid of Dale and Saul. These hitmen, Matheson (Craig Robinson, from “The Office”) and Budlofsky (Kevin Corrigan), happen to be two other funny guys in a film that just starts to unload funny characters from here on out. Once Red, Dale and Saul are all together it’s literally like The Three Stoned Stooges! There’s a mad-crazy car chase with red slushie all over the windshield. The three bear arms and spray bullets as they go up against Ted’s crew, crazy Rosie Perez (I gotta say it’s great to see her doing some insane comedy) and Chinese drug dealers.  Out of the three of them, Red is the nuttiest nutcase I’ve sen since Nicholas Cage in “Raising Arizona”! He gets in a knock-down brawl with Dale and Saul where his head is smashed into the toilet, he takes a couple shots in the gut but keeps on ticking, and has some of the best, effortlessly funny lines in the movie.
Seth Rogen and James Franco in Columbia Pictures' Pineapple Express
When the action kicks into full gear, this really turns into one of the most over-the-top romps in some time. The fighting just cracked me up because unlike other action films, everyone fighting is sloppy and clueless. It really is the type of fighting you would see a bunch of adrenalized stoners endure. It’s the most mad-capped action I’ve seen in a long time. It’s insane and stupid and it’s fun! Like many films from Team Apatow, there’s plenty of bro-mance going on here. One of many favorite scenes is toward the end when these three nutjobs are sitting in the diner after surviving the climactic action. They just sit there and recount all their escapades that we just witnessed in disbelief. They are as astounded as we are and this is the kind of scene that would ordinarily annoy me with it’s exposition but here it just feels like I’m cooling down along with them.
It’s those well written character moments that really make this movie a hoot. The cast is inspired and all do well with their characters and scenes. I especially like a scene where Dale actually does show up to Angie’s house for his intro-to-her-parents dinner. Of course he’s totally high but his concern is just to get Angie and her parents to safety. Her parents (Ed Begley Jr. in his best work in a while and the always wonderful Nora Dunn) are appalled and beside themselves with shock and alarm.  It’s a combination of the kind of reaction you’d naturally expect with that immediate awkwardness that comes when you know you’re going downhill fast.  
Pot comedy can grow old quick when it’s done lazily but director David Gordon Green (All the Real Girls & Snow Angels)  knows that and transcends the whole stoner norm and just goes berserk.. It takes the typical expectations of the genre and adds it to  B action movies, bawdy comedies and turns it on its head.  Underneath all the smoke, here’s a movie about friendship, sticking together and doing all the crazy stuff you never be doing if you friends weren’t around to egg you on. It may not be for everybody but I would bet that those who wouldn’t believe they would fun this kinda film funny may just be the ones trying to keep from falling over laughing.

Pineapple Express (2008) Rogen poster

Pineapple Express (2008) Franco poster

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