Pineapple Express

Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 
Pineapple Express
Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 

Twenty-five year-old Dale Denton (Seth Rogen, TV's "Freaks and Geeks," "Knocked Up") spends his days donning costumes to serve subpoenas, visiting his girlfriend Angie (Amber Heard, "Alpha Dog," "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane") at her high school and smoking up to ten doobies a day.  He's favored by his dealer, the perpetually stoned Saul Silver (James Franco, TV's "Freaks and Geeks," "Spider-Man 3"), who gives him exclusive access to the world's rarest weed.  That same night, Dale's ready to stick documents to Ted Jones (Gary Cole, "A Simple Plan," "Office Space") when he sees Ted and a female cop (Rosie Perez, "Fearless," "The Take") kill someone.  He drops his joint and bolts, but Ted's the drug lord who supplies Saul and one toke of that smoldering joint identifies the witness as a customer of "Pineapple Express."

The Judd Apatow comic express continues to chug with some new twists - "Pineapple Express" marks the producer's first action film and first collaboration with director David Gordon Green ("George Washington," "Snow Angels"), known more for his independent art films than stoner comedies.  The story, by Apatow and "Superbad" screenwriters Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, is also a new twist on an old genre, and it's a rare, laugh-out-loud throughout comedy.  James Franco's Saul Silver can step into the pantheon of iconic movie stoners joining Sean Penn's Jeff Spicoli and Jeff Bridges's Dude.

In a black and white 1937 set prologue, General Brat (James Remar, "Blade: Trinity," HBO's "Sex and the City") is running an experiment on 'Item 9' in an underground bunker.  In a sealed off room, Private Miller (Bill Hader, "Superbad") has been smoking pot for nine hours and 'feels like a pat of butter melting on a stack of pancakes.'  His answers to military questions escalate in their rebelliousness (and silliness!), until the camera closes in on Brat's face as he declares Item 9 'Illegal!'  That segues us into the present and into Dale's crappy old car as he goes about a typical day.  From delivery man to doctor, he tags his prey with 'You've been served,' but he's a bit less successful weaseling out of meeting Angie's parents at dinner the next night, primarily because he feels like a fat, underachieving loser in front of her male school buddies.

Later, when Dale realizes he's been spied by the murderous drug lord and his pocketed cop, he speeds back to Saul's place and spreads his panic theorizing they'll be traced by Saul's meritorious marijuana.  They grab essentials (weed and munchies) and split, ending up in a forest with a dead battery.  Before Saul becomes convinced the corrupt cop can 'triangulate' them through their cell phones, he reaches his middleman, Red (Danny McBride, "The Foot Fist Way," "Drillbit Taylor"), and arranges to meet him and cap off the story there, but Red's already being held by Jones's thugs Budlofsky (Kevin Corrigan, "Superbad") and Matheson (Craig Robinson, "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," TV's "The Office") and sets them up.  Within 48 hours, the boys will have set off a drug war between Jones and his rival Asian gang, driven Dale's girlfriend's family from their home, engaged in a high speed chase, had a falling out and become bfff's (yes, that third f is per Saul).

Rogen and Franco are a great comic duo, with Rogen's ever so slight edge of something resembling responsible adulthood making him the panicky straight guy to Franco's sweet natured stoner with a childlike sense of wonder.  Danny McBride, their third wheel in a tricycle kind of sense, does a great job of playing the Judas then wriggling back into their (and our) good graces.  A lot of what makes this trio, and the film itself, work is the absurdist tossaways woven throughout the dialogue and the visual characterizations sprinkled about their abodes.  For example, when Dale and Saul meet up with Red, he's icing a cake for his dead cat. Franco makes eating a pickle hilarious, if for no other reason than the way the jar has been placed on a car's trunk.  Production designer Chris Spellman ("Superbad") ensures every environment is telling.  Watch when Saul leaves his living room for a moment.  The camera follows him but does not enter the room, yet if one looks in one will find a weird electric train setup with teepees.  Red's apartment is another piece of work with his bachelor bar and a retro bathroom featuring heavy porcelain pieces which will inflict great damage upon him.

The film does feature a great amount of violence and it's not the cartoon variety even when it can be uncomfortably funny.  Our heros get their heads smashed, hit by cars and shot.  Dale is faced by trying to reattach a body part and Red suffers so much blood loss he thinks he's high.  The R rating is also earned by a prodigious amount of profanity.

Supporting players all stack up as well without grabbing the spotlight away from the stars. Gary Cole is a touch dim as the menacing drug lord while Perez is tough as nails.  They're reflected in their goons, Corrigan doing a spacey riff in just wanted to be home in time for dinner while Robinson means business, keeping a straight face through some great Rogen/Franco antics.  Amber Heard is perfect as the ripe teenager well suited to her immature twentysomething boyfriend and Ed Begley Jr. and Nora Dunn are fun as her parents.  Bill Hader's performance in the film's prologue is a great piece of skit comedy.

"Pineapple Express" is the most raucous, absurd, violent and consistently funny entry of the Apatow brand of sweet, loser guys make good comedies.  It makes Cheech and Chong look like relics.


The DVD:

Those who loved "Pineapple Express" at the theater will be thrilled with the DVD. We are reviewing the single disc, unrated edition.  While the 2-disc and blu-ray DVDs have many, *many* more features, including an iTunes digital download, deleted scenes, unedited footage, Comic-Con panel excerpts, and such tips as Ed Begley on non-toxic cleaning products and Red and Jessica's Guide to Marriage (!?), the single disc still has much to offer.

Firstly, we get not only the theatrical version of the film, but the aforementioned, extended, unrated edition.  Extended and alternate scenes (it is a little odd that deleted scenes, a pretty standard DVD inclusion, are not available on the single disc) begin and end with a bang.  First up is Bill Hader riffing more extensively from that hilarious black and white prologue.  An extension of the surveillance guys outside of the drug lord's home reveals that one of the listeners cannot speak English.  Last up is a truly extended version of the final diner scene that exemplifies Rogan, Franco and McBride's easy going ability to improvise.  A gag reel is more than just actors cracking up - they taunt each other's naughty bits!  The making of featurette is both entertaining and informative.  We learn how the idea was generated (Judd Apatow enjoyed Brad Pitt in "True Romance" so much, he wanted to see a whole movie about that character), and then Rogan, one of the film's producers, goes on to explain how they then tried to go against the obvious by choosing a director known for character study (David Gordon Green) instead of action and by switching the roles he and Franco were originally slated for.  The featurette includes some of the pieces available as separate entities on the 2 disc editions, such as some of the table read and behind the scenes footage of Green directing.  And once you hear Rosie Perez's impersonation of Seth Rogan, you'll never hear him the same way again.

You'll hear plenty of what Rosie's talking about playing the commentary which features Rogan and just about everybody else.  These guys never run out of things to talk about, whether they're commenting directly about what's happening on screen or not (I was disappointed that that marvelous throwaway pickle gag didn't get a mention).  They're not a moveable feast, they're a moveable party.  The commentary is a bit too loud in the mix to be able to follow the film very well, so make sure to watch the movie itself at least once beforehand.  It won't be a problem, because "Pineapple Express" is one of those movies that doesn't get old on repeat viewings.

Robin also gives "Pineapple Express" an A-.

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