Pineapple Express – Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride and Gary Cole. Directed by David Gordon Green. Rated MA for strong drug use and violence, sexual references and coarse language. 107 mins.
Last week I was complaining about the lack of bloody action films, and having to settle on the high-NRG music video that was Wanted. Who knew that one week later, I would’ve seen a gory action movie that was also a great film in it’s own right? Who knew that one of the best action films of the year would star Seth Rogen? And who knew that there was still some gas in the Cheech and Chong-style pot-infused comedy canon? I guess that’s why Pineapple Express was so brilliant. It was full of surprises.
Pineapple Express is written by star Rogen and his Superbad co-scribe Evan Goldberg. Rogen plays Dale Denton, a pot-smoking process server who passes the time between hits by serving people with subpoenas. When his stash runs out, he meets up with Saul Silver (Franco), his very sweet, very lonely, and very dim drug dealer. Saul likes Dale, and shows him his latest import – Pineapple Express, a herb so rare he’s the only guy in town who’s got it. Of course, that’s not always a good thing, especially when it comes to identifying pot-heads.
Dale decides to light-up outside the house of his latest subpoena victim, Ted Jones (Cole), the very man who sells Saul his product. Suddenly, Dale sees Ted shoot a man in the head, and then escapes (very loudly) from the crime scene. Unfortunately, he leaves behind a very big clue in the form of the Pineapple Express, sending Dale and Saul on a trip they’ll never forget. Along the way they face off against some very strange hitman, an Asian drug syndicate, a low-level drug dealer (McBride), and worst of all, the parents of Dale’s 18-year-old girlfriend.
Now, as I’m sure you’re probably aware, Pineapple Express features some drug use. Well, a lot of drug use. Look, it’s all drug use. However, Rogen, Goldberg and indie auteur David Gordon Green have made a film that is completely enjoyable for non-tokers. In fact, people even afraid of wheatgrass will still have fun with Pineapple Express.
Rogen has honed his loveable loser to a tee. Amazingly, he has the entire film stolen from him by the supporting cast. That used to be his job! James Franco, who was once the worst part of the entire Spiderman franchise, completely redeems himself as the sweet-natured Saul, receiving the biggest laughs from the audience. Also brilliant was Gary Cole as the hammy villain, and Danny McBride, as Saul’s backstabbing friend Red. Keep an eye out for McBride’s sure-to-be-a-cult-hit The Foot Fist Way, which is still awaiting an Australian release.
Pineapple Express is a weed movie – that’s for sure. But it’s less Harold and Kumar and more Midnight Run in its execution. The two leads play perfectly off one another, and the action scenes should make most full-blown action films ashamed of themselves. There is a great car chase, a brilliant house fight, and a final shootout that was completely riveting. You actually feel as if the characters lives are in danger.
While Wanted also had it’s key action scenes, I wanted to cut out everything in between. With Pineapple Express, the in-betweens are what make the film brilliant. The scene where Dale and Saul fight Red with ordinary household items is fantastic, but the tense/hilarious dialogue that precedes it makes the scene a classic. I won’t go into details, but in the course of 3 minutes, they talk about a dead cat’s birthday, compare suits to kimonos, and finally discuss the aerodynamic advantages of not having underarm hair.
Whether you like this film or not will depend greatly on your affection for the leads, and the signature Judd Apatow-dialogue (This is 3rd film he’s produced this year, not including the upcoming Step Brothers). In fact, this entire movie pretty much felt like a grown-up Superbad with explosions. I for one, am nowhere near being sick of this brand of humour. In fact, four Apatow movies a year is barely enough to satisfy my needs. Pineapple Express brings something new to the game, a daringness that is rarely seen in comedy, and tear-inducing laughter that is rarely seen in action movies.
This felt like a classic, along the lines of legendary 80’s buddy flicks Lethal Weapon and 48 Hrs (complete with a brand new Huey Lewis song)! After a decade of having to look towards the Rush Hour series for action and comedy, its nice to remember how great these films could be. What more can I say. High-ly recommended.