*Takes off propeller beanie, puts on critic hat (a foam cowboy hat with "CRITIC" written on it in sharpie)*
Everyone knows Pineapple Express is a stoner movie. The interesting thing about it is that each scene plays out like reality as experienced by a stoned person. First you get thrown into an unfamiliar situation that you feel like you weren’t ready to deal with yet. "Huh? Aw, man." Next, as the reality starts to set in, the events start to wash over you and you settle into a comfort zone. Then, once you’ve achieved proper perspective, the absurdity of it all gets to you and everything’s silly and hilarious. The laughter reaches a crescendo, but as you come down, you get an empty feeling where you can’t remember exactly what was so funny.
Seth Rogen plays Dale Denton, a 25-year-old Process Server dating an 18-year-old high school chick. He smokes weed and listens to talk radio all day, and though he’s been buying from dealer Saul (James Franco) for two months, Denton sees the relationship as strictly business, and only puts up with lonely Saul’s friendly overtures insofar as he doesn’t want to hurt his feelings. Yet when Denton witnesses a murder, Saul’s the first person he thinks to call. Their mutual neediness, along with that of Saul’s dealer, played by Danny McBride, becomes the driving force of the movie.
One of Pineapple Express’ strengths is that the plot, whose major players are all stoners or pot dealers at some level of the game, is dominated by characters who are all kinda dense. It’s a nice change from the kind of "criminal mastermind" movies we’re all used to, and I can’t help but think, more true to life.
As expected, James Franco’s committed, spot-on stoner is the highlight of the movie (though Craig Robinson as the eccentric, ambiguously gay hitman is pretty damned good too). He and Seth Rogen have an easy chemistry, and Franco gets most of the good lines. The problem is, the script is a little "talky". It seems like every scene has five minutes of back and forth between Franco and Rogen. It has a dry, Seinfeldian humor to it. It’s sharp, but the pattern gets a little tiresome, with Franco asking three follow-up questions about everything Rogen says. Seems like some of the fat could’ve been trimmed. Then again, it’s sort of an accurate representation of the stoner psyche – it uses repetition to lull you into a hypnotized stupor before the humor can really do its work. There were some good moments that broke from the formula, like Danny McBride’s throwaway one liner about his tiny pistol, "I used to carry this when I was a prostitute," but not enough.
Hiring indie director David Gordon Green was a smart move – the movie has that authentic, one-camera-on-location feel, as opposed to say, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, where everything felt like a three-walled set and the actors played to an audience like theater. Pineapple Express is much more visually dynamic, which seems like icing in a comedy, but is still important. The action sequences, though, are all a little too campy. The slapstick is occasionally cute, but never really goes beyond cuteness (does it ever?). Plus, how many times can we see someone beat someone up and then apologize for it?
Another problem is that all the playfully gay, homoerotic I-love-you-man stuff feels a little forced. Franco, Rogen, and McBride are all supposed to be starved for human companionship and that’s a big part of the premise, but they overdo the hetero male love affairs. It’s a nice idea, but it worked better in Superbad where it was unexpected and didn’t feel so much like a comedy crutch.
All in all, it’s a lovable little movie, and it’s funny even though it drags at times. I’d recommend it, but I’d also recommend getting high first. Also – they ruined a ton of funny parts by putting them in the preview (see: James Franco kicking out the cop car window, which would’ve been hilarious had I not already seen it) and then left me waiting the entire movie for both the Huey Lewis theme song and that cool little Paper Planes song from the trailer, both which never came. Wass up wit dat?
*puts propeller beanie back on, lights fart* Ta da!