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  Pineapple Express

Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson

Directed by: David Gordon Green

Produced by: Judd Apatow, Shauna Robertson

Written by: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg

Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing


     I don’t think I’ve ever been able to sum up my thoughts on a motion picture in a mere sentence, but Pineapple Express has allowed me the opportunity: I like the characterizations, but I think the story is too weak to sustain them. But I won’t let myself off the hook that easily. Pineapple Express is an at least moderately entertaining movie, one worthy of some degree of analysis. How much analysis will benefit those who have seen the film or influence potential viewers’ decision to go, however, represent other matters entirely. Weed is not known to be kind to analytical thought – at least not the legitimate type, that is.

     Seth Rogen plays Dale Denton, a process server and mega-stoner who finds himself in loads of trouble after one night scoring new inventory called “Pineapple Express” from his dealer, Saul Silver (James Franco). Dale is supposed to serve a summons on Tim Jones (Gary Cole), who unbeknownst to him is Saul’s supplier. Only problem is: when Dale goes to do his job, he witnesses Jones committing an organized murder and panics, making a ruckus upon his escape. Jones notices Dale’s presence and recovers a blunt that Dale leaves at the scene, which he identifies as Pineapple Express in a single puff. Given that Saul is the only person he has supplied the drug, tracking his witness down won’t be too hard. Dale and Saul must make a run for it, understanding that a gruesome fate may well be in store for them. This, of course, doesn’t exactly go as one would ideally want it to because, well, they’re stoners who smoke a plethora of pot. Dale and Saul not only maintain their usual inhaling habits over the course of the next day, but come to be involved in a car chase and a massive shootout, among other cataclysmic events.

     Indeed, Seth Rogen and James Franco are downright brilliant in the lead roles, crafting characters that are simultaneously the funniest and most accurate comic depictions of stoners in perhaps all of film history. While Pineapple Express is regrettably pro-marijuana on the whole, Rogen and Franco both don’t stray from depicting how mind-altering the drug can be. Dale is a guy who fits the profile of a hardcore pot addict: he’s functional enough in his everyday life, but clearly began smoking at a young age and never emotionally-developed past that point. Franco is as out-there as a pothead could possibly be, wild and funny on the outside but clearly plagued by some degree of social-isolation on the inside. Yes, Rogen and Franco only sparingly explore their characters’ psychologies, but they do so in such a convincing manner that the movie’s comedy is rendered believable in the process. Pineapple Express is thoroughly ridiculous, but its leads find an emotional undercurrent that works, instantly separating the movie from the total ludicrousness of, say, the Harold and Kumar pictures.

     Much as I admire the central two performances of Pineapple Express, my praise for the film ends there. While Rogen and Franco provide involving characterizations, the movie is as loud and as basic as they come on an external level. (The exercise becomes especially convoluted in its exploration of Jones and accomplices’ assumption that rivaling Asian drug-lords are involved with Dale and Saul.) Instead of simply delving into their character’s personalities, longtime writing-partners Rogen and Evan Goldberg adhere largely to an episodic buddy-comedy formula. While Pineapple Express finds some humorous moments in its grandiose action plot, the funniest bits are forged in quieter scenes, usually stemming entirely from Rogen and Franco’s work. The best passages involve thirtysomething Dale’s relationship with a high school-aged girl (Amber Heard), who he clings to despite their total incompatibility, and Dale and Saul’s cornball dealings with “pal” Red (Danny McBride), who is in contact both with them and with Jones.

     When Pineapple Express gets too caught up in its external plot, its overall ability to entertain dips because hardly any of the comedy derives itself from explicitly written material. Instead, the humor is realized in the ways that the actors respond to certain situations, hardly any of which emerge during the movie’s stock buddy-comedy action sequences. (The aforementioned, superiorly involving passages work because they allow Rogen and Franco to indulge in their characters while providing clever but unobtrusive dialogue.) Had Pineapple Express been a more meditative, less plot-oriented work—not dissimilar in style to the previous efforts of offbeat director David Gordon Green—it could’ve limited itself to a ninety-minute running length, likely short enough to effectively operate solely on Rogen and Franco’s charms. Instead, the movie runs for a detrimentally long 111-minutes, entertaining all too many clichés and offering ample time for the viewer’s attention to drift long enough to miss a solid laugh. Pineapple Express may be a funny movie, but it isn’t a balanced one. What I said at the beginning of this review is worth repeating: I like the characterizations, but I think the story is too weak to sustain them.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 8.4.2008

Screened on: 7.31.2008 at the Edwards Mira Mesa 18 in Mira Mesa, CA.


Pineapple Express is rated R and runs 105 minutes.

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