dvd review: PINEAPPLE EXPRESS

pineapple-exp

The problem with most stoner movies is that they are only entertaining to either really young people who have never been stoned and are easily amused, or someone who is completely stoned and are also easily amused. Rare indeed is the stoner film that one does not have to be or have been stoned to truly appreciate. And while I’m sure that getting high before watching Pineapple Express may make it more enjoyable to some people, those of us who simply get really paranoid after smoking weed, can enjoy the film with our minds free and clear.

Yet another entry in the ever-growing cache of the Judd Apatow’s Comedy All Stars, which includes such recent hits as 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, Pineapple Express is an unapologetic madcap romp through the world of habitual pot smokers and over the top violence. An odd combination? Perhaps. But the film succeeds on pure audacity.

Seth Rogen stars as Dale Denton, a 25 year old chronic chronic-smoker who’s dating a senior in high school. When not working as a process server, and even when working as a process server, Dale spends most of his time getting high. His main dealer is Saul (James Franco), a burned out pothead lost in a perpetual daze of one too many bong hits. Not quite friends, but more than just customer and dealer, Dale and Saul have a relationship built around the fact that they both love to get high. Apparently this is enough for Saul to sell Dale some choice weed known as “pineapple express.” This stuff is so rare, that it seems Saul is the only dealer in town with a supply, provided to him by his middleman, Red (Danny McBride). This proves to be problematic when Dale, while getting reading to serve a summons, witnesses a murder and leaves behind a roach at the scene of the crime. As fate would have it, the killer is Ted Jones (Gary Cole), a sadistic gangster who happens to be the sole importer of pineapple express. I know this all sounds ridiculous, which it is, and it only gets more so. Ted sends hitmen Budlofsky (Kevin Corrigan) and Matheson (Craig Robinson) to Red, who rats out Dale and Seth. When it becomes clear that Red has sold them out, Dale and Saul go on the run, with Ted and his army of killers not far behind.

It is important to realize that you don’t have to be stoned to appreciate Pineapple Express, but you do need to have an appreciation for the absurd and implausible. From start to finish, this is a film that is pure ridiculousness—an unlikely pairing of the stoner comedy and the buddy action flick, resulting in an almost schizophrenic mishmash of genres that is ultimately a parody. Nothing is quite as it would be if Pineapple Express were more of a traditional genre film one way or the other. Dale and Saul are a bit too physically active for a pair of stoners, while Budlofsky and Matheson are a bit too emotionally sensitive for a pair of hired killers. And Red is a bit too much of everything to even compare him to anything else.

Pineapple Express has some problems. Most notable is a run time that’s a bit too long. Many Apatow-produced comedies have this problem, and Pineapple Express could certainly use a bit of trimming. And there are times when the film takes leaps of such absurdity that if you aren’t fully engaged, you’ll find yourself disconnected from what’s going on. But where the film does work—most notably the performances and chemistry of Rogen and Franco—it remains consistent and thoroughly entertaining. The rest of the cast also turn in great performances, especially Robinson and McBride, who pretty much steal every scene they’re in.
Pineapple Express is a solid film that has some flaws, but it is entertaining enough that those problems can be overlooked. And when compared to other stoner comedies, like Half Baked or the films of Cheech and Chong, Pineapple Express starts to come across like cinematic gold. The comedic timing is sharp, the performances are all solid, and perhaps most significant, you don’t have to be stoned to find it funny.<p.
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