Director: David Gordon Green
Starring: Seth Rogan, James Franco
Duuuuuuude. Pineapple Express is part stoner comedy, part buddy action movie and is better than most entries in either genre. Granted that’s not saying a whole lot, but an accomplishment is an accomplishment. David Gordon Green’s film isn’t going to change your life, but it is thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end.
Seth Rogan stars as Dale Denton, a process server who can’t seem to go five minutes without being at least a little bit buzzed. He’s dating a girl who is still in high school and who is way too mature for him. To be honest, he’s kind of a loser but he has that sarcastic Seth Rogan charm which makes him somewhat endearing. Dale’s dealer is Saul, who is played engagingly by James Franco and falls just under Jeff Lebowski on the scale of awesome stoners. Saul has a new product which he sells to Dale called Pineapple Express, a particularly potent mixture which he is selling exclusively. When Dale later witnesses a murder and drops a roach in the process of his very inept getaway, he and Saul realize that it’s only a matter of time before the dots are connected back to them.
Dale and Saul go on the run, pursued by Matheson and Budlofsky (Craig Robinson & Kevin Corrigan), two thugs, and Carol (Rosie Perez), a cop who is in cahoots with the drug kingpin Ted (Gary Cole). They have various small adventures – including spending a night in the woods, getting into a knockdown, drag out fight with middleman drug dealer Red (Danny McBride, who would steal the show if Rogan and Franco weren’t such strong performers), and going to dinner at Dale’s girlfriend’s house, where her parents are less than impressed by Dale despite the fact that he is trying to save their lives. Eventually Dale and Saul have a fight, precipitated by Saul’s realization that while he considers Dale to be a good friend, Dale doesn’t think of him in the same way; and they go their separate ways only for Saul to end up in the hands Ted and his goons, leaving Dale to to come up with a half-baked scheme to rescue him.
Pineapple Express has a number of winning moments, many of them courtesy of Franco and McBride. The battle royal between Dale, Saul and Red, complete with a “time out,” is particularly entertaining, as is Dale and Saul’s getaway in a police car with Saul getting his leg stuck in the windshield and Carol accidentally shooting a bystander and screaming “Sorry” before taking off again. The film has good rhythm, building nicely from one set-up to the next with pauses in between so that Dale and Saul can, ahem, refuel. The various elements of the story feel well-balanced, making it easier to overlook some of the less logical turnings of the plot (though to be fair, in a movie about stoners I guess you can’t expect sound logic to play a terrifically active role).
Though none of the characters is more fleshed out than they absolutely have to be for the plot to work, Rogan and Franco manage to give the film some emotional depth, especially Franco. Saul is a goofy character, but Franco gives him heart, making us care when he realizes just how little he means to Dale. I can definitely see how he managed to score a Golden Globe nomination for this role, though I would have preferred to see him nominated for his excellent work in Milk. Though I can’t imagine going out of my way to see this film again, it’s a solid, entertaining effort nonetheless.