Pineapple Express 

On the surface, Pineapple Express offers precisely what it advertises: a roll-'em-up, smoke-'em-up, blow-'em-up bromantic comedy from the freaks and geeks who have made Judd Apatow's brand of stunted-man yuks a global franchise. No longer schlepping home electronics (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) or dicking around with a porn Web site (Knocked Up), Seth Rogen has a real job now — as a process server. It's a gig his Dale Denton likes because it allows him plenty of time to smoke weed in his car, visit his high school girlfriend (Maxim cover girl Amber Heard) and play dress-up. (Dale pays homage to Chevy Chase's Fletch by wearing surgical scrubs to deliver subpoenas to a doctor.)

Rejoining Rogen, years after NBC flunked their Freaks and Geeks in the midst of its one majestic season, is James Franco. His Saul Silver is the world's loneliest dope dealer, who spends his hours giggling to 227 reruns and hanging with his bubbe at the retirement home. He's a mensch, this one, offering the latest and greatest in marijuana hybrids: Pineapple Express, which smells "like God's vagina" and smokes "like killing a unicorn." It's this very strain of sticky icky that eventually lands the tandem in trouble, after Dale witnesses a murder committed by a dealer (Gary Cole, the master of deadpan dumb-ass cool) and a corrupt cop (Rosie Perez) and leaves behind a roach that Cole's character can ID by taste and smell. In short order, the dopes are on the run, dodging bullets, wrecking cars — and falling in love with each other, as men are wont to do in Apatow productions, where the women have always been little more than superfluous accessories.

But that's just superficial stuff, the noise and nonsense of a plot that's beside the point. Pineapple Express is indeed a savvy nod to 1980s action comedies, down to the Huey Lewis original that plays over the end credits. But its greatest achievements lie in the details — the mumbled asides, the tossed-off non sequiturs, the pop-culture (and Scott Baio) allusions. Though the screenplay was penned by Rogen and pal Evan Goldberg — the duo whose Superbad was super-so-so and superlong — much credit must also be given to director David Gordon Green, a beloved art-house craftsman whose last few films suggested an ache to bust out of the indieplex.

The insertion of Green into the now-familiar mix transforms Pineapple Express from the inevitable into the unexpected. Green and longtime cine­matographer Tim Orr don't act like they're making an action movie; as far as they appear to be concerned, this is an idyllic romance occasionally interrupted by fisticuffs, gunplay and car chases — all of which are rendered with a realist's eye for detail, no matter how violent or goofy. A scene during which Rogen and Franco play leapfrog in the woods is textbook Terrence Malick, a wondrous, poetic detour in a film that's eventually nothing but left turns.

Dale and Saul begin the film as strangers who do little more than conduct the occasional business transaction. But in a film mostly bereft of women — there are but three female roles, two of whom are cops — theirs becomes a full-blown love affair built upon accidental proposals ("Imagine I gave you a hand job ... got you a hand job") that blossom into dry humping. Even their fights are foreplay, especially a brilliantly staged brawl pitting Dale and Saul against a dope-pushing middle man named Red — played by Danny McBride, the Foot Fist Way star who delivers gibberish with an authority's conviction. Three men who've never thrown a single punch in their lives brutally lay into one another. The Rogen-Apatow collaboration has come a long way from the "You know how I know you're gay" riffing in 40-Year-Old Virgin. At last, they're all the way out of the closet.

And don't be fooled by its head-shop appeal: Pineapple Express, like Knocked Up but much, much better, is a stoner's movie that ultimately decides it's time to put down the Bong Mitzvah (a water pipe purchased in Tel Aviv) and get shit done. "We are not very functional when we're high," Dale tells Saul as they're on the verge of a breakup; he dreams not of serving subpoenas but of hosting a talk-radio show. The thought appalls Saul, who earlier was convinced that a car tuned to talk radio had committed suicide. But Saul has dreams, too: "I want to design septic tanks for playgrounds." At last, a Judd Apatow production worth memorizing.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Robert Wilonsky

Facebook Activity

All contents ©2015 Kansas City Pitch LLC
All rights reserved. No part of this service may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of Kansas City Pitch LLC,
except that an individual may download and/or forward articles via email to a reasonable number of recipients for personal, non-commercial purposes.

All contents © 2012 SouthComm, Inc. 210 12th Ave S. Ste. 100, Nashville, TN 37203. (615) 244-7989.
All rights reserved. No part of this service may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of SouthComm, Inc.
except that an individual may download and/or forward articles via email to a reasonable number of recipients for personal, non-commercial purposes.
Website powered by Foundation