How About a Nice Pineapple Express?

From the guys who brought you Superbad, as the tag line goes, comes another film which curiously blends ‘00s sensibilities with a ’70s feel. What is this movie, anyway? Comedy? Action? Love st–okay, nobody’s thinking it’s a love story. (Though it is, kinda.)

Drug comedy–at least the old style stuff, whether it’s Cheech & Chong or, hell, even Dean Martin or Foster Brooks staggering around–doesn’t really do it for me. I find the humor to be overly broad, without the cleverness of a Chaplin or something else to ameliorate it. I enjoy Kevin Smith’s stuff, I think, partly because the stoner characters are comic relief, not the main focus. Also, they’re just as dopey when they’re clean and sober (as in Clerks II).

I’ve noticed with the Judd Apatow guys that they take a lot of conventions of the genre they’re working in, and render those a lot more realistically than previous movies have, and then stylize some other aspect instead. Superbad, for example, was a lot more realistic in terms of how the kids acted, on the one hand, but on the other hand, the subplot with McLovin and the cops was surreal.

In Pineapple Express we have the story of lovable stoner/loser Dale Denton (Seth Rogan), a process server who smokes pot all day while driving between jobs, and waiting for his targets, and dressing in costumes, who has no apparent ambition and a girlfriend who’s still in high school (Amber Heard).

After receiving the titular marijuana from his dealer Saul Silver (James Franco in a wonderful change from his usual, more intense roles), he witnesses his next victim (of service) murder a person with the help of a cop (Rosie Perez). This murderer is Ted Jones (Gary Cole), who just happens to be his dealer’s dealer’s dealer.

The “love story” aspect is between Dale and Saul, by the way. They’re both losers, sure, but they both have potential, unlike the other losers they deal with, and they sort of recognize that. Dale feels superior to Saul because, hey, Saul is a drug dealing felon. Saul’s sensitivity, which shows up in many ways, is what makes him lovable, despite his dependence on the loco weed (and his subsequent lack of good judgment).

Anyway, Dale, also not functioning at peak efficiency, tosses his pineapple express out of the window after witnessing the murder, which allows Jones and his cop accomplice to track him down through Silver’s dealer, Red (Danny McBride). Hilarity, or at least a few good chuckles, ensue, and along the way we learn the dangers of smoking too much dope. (See? There’s a moral! Heh.)

So, first off, the cast: Yeah, pretty top-notch. There’s a weird, great chemistry between the always fabulous Cole and Rosie Perez, to say nothing of the relationship between Franco and Rogen (occasionally with McBride). James Remar and Bill Hader show up in an amusing opening showing how marijuana came to be banned. Kevin Corrigan and Craig Robinson (the bouncer in Knocked Up) play the heavies sent to kill Dale, Saul and Red with a mixture of humor and menace. And the whole rival Asian (Chinese? Japanese? Indian? Who knows?) gang is amusing as well. And Ed Begley and Nora Dunn turn up as the girlfriend’s parents.

So even though you have a buddy movie, essentially, it’s also a nice ensemble piece, with each new character bringing their own little twist to the proceedings, so that you keep going, “Oh, and remember when this character showed up?”, like Cleo King as the school cop who arrests Dale.

I think they call that good writing. It reminds me of Hitchcock, actually. Very seldom did a characer show up on screen who wasn’t a character, i.e., who didn’t seem to have their own life and their own problems, and just because the movie’s about you doesn’t mean they’re going to roll over.

The last set of the movie, a shootout in the drug lord’s hideout, is necessarily somewhat goofy. But the movie walks the fine line between slapstick and gory-realism very well, as the characters are only required to be just heroic enough, and not suddenly Willis, Stallone and Schwarzeneggar.

Although Rogan does that jump from the second floor on to Cole near the end–they show it in the commercial–is sort of unexpected and cool, even if you just know that he’s got the safety harness on and needed a lot of editing and multiple takes.

Those things usually do, of course, it’s just–you know–Seth Rogan. (Though, honestly, the guy just has a round, five-o-clock-shadow face; he’s not really very fat. He’s probably reasonably fit.)

So, all-in-all, a pretty entertaining couple of hours. Not your thing if drugs are offensive to you. And possibly not your thing if you’re into the whole drug scene and find anti-drug moralizing off-putting (though there’s not much of that, it is there).

Better than it had a right to be. The Boy approved, and particularly of the last action scene which he thought had just the right feel.

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