How much you enjoy Pineapple Express may depend more on how charmed you are by the chemistry between James Franco and Seth Rogen and less on how funny you find pot jokes. Don't get me wrong, marijuana jokes abound in this comedy written by Rogen and his frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg, and they are funny. But I was surprised by how much more Pineapple Express falls into the category of buddy movies like Lethal Weapon, rather than the stoner category like Half Baked. I guess I'll put it this way: You don't have to be high to be entertained by this.
I've been feeling fatigued by some of cinema's leading funny men these days who keep pumping out the same old comedies left and right, and Rogen's shtick is definitely pushing it for me. But I was pleasantly surprised to see how well he plays the straight man (no pun intended) to Franco's snuggly drug dealer. They strike a hilariously delightful chemistry together, which I kind of didn't want to end. But there's more going on here besides the two lead actors. To see why I think the director of this movie was a cool choice and which scene-stealer I think earns himself a place in the Apatow kingdom,
The term "Pineapple Express" is what the drug dealers in the movie have named the most powerful pot in all the world (Franco's character thinks this pot is so precious that every time he smokes it he feels like he's killing a unicorn). That's just a funny little side note, though, because how strong the pot is has nothing to do with how much trouble the two main characters get themselves into. Rogen plays Dale Denton, a childish loser in his twenties whose job consists of creatively hunting people down to serve them legal documents, like subpoenas. He's also dating a high-school girl and is threatened by the cooler, younger boys at her school.
Dale's dealer is Saul Silver (Franco), a dim but good-natured guy who spends most days in his pajamas, and cares deeply for his "bubby" (Yiddish for grandmother). He charms Dale into hanging around with him during their transactions, which annoys Dale because he just wants to pick up his marijuana and skidaddle. It's kind of like the pothead's version of making small talk on the sidewalk: a little awkward, forced, not something you look forward to.
After a bonding session, Dale goes to serve some papers, but then happens to witness a murder committed by the drug lord who supplies Saul. This is when the entire movie becomes as funny as it is gruesomely violent, not to mention action packed (I never thought I'd say that about a Judd Apatow production, much less a Seth Rogen movie). People are dismembered, characters you care about are brutally shot, etc. Right when you're dying of laughter because of Franco's facial expression, someone actually gets a bullet in the stomach, or head, or ear and you know, it's a bit of buzz kill. Also, I just have to mention Saul's middleman supplier Red, played by Danny R. McBride because this actor steals every scene he's in, including a fight scene with Rogen and Franco that is one for the books.
Director David Gordon Green is known mostly to film geeks and art house fans for his smaller, poetic films (All the Real Girls, Snow Angels) so it's kind of amazing to see weird little scenes of his scattered throughout the film. These scenes are practically meditative, even though they basically feature just a couple stoners twirling around by a stream. Those strange and funny touches on this movie have endeared it to me. All in all it's a funny — if brutally violent — Summer comedy experience.