Stoner comedy offers only intermittent laughs for the sober.
I certainly can respect what the Apatow gang is going for with the stoner comedy Pineapple Express. Drawing on classics like Cheech and Chong Up in Smoke and more modern cult hits such as Half Baked and Harold & Kumar go to White Castle, Pineapple is a bit of pure cinematic silliness. It never takes itself too seriously and everyone involved looks to have had a blast making it. But this latter point is also where the movie doesn't always translate and winds up lagging. Just because a bunch of guys sitting around on a movie set think something is funny doesn't necessarily mean the audience will agree.
The unlikely David Gordon Green (Undertow, Snow Angels) directs Pineapple Express from a script by Seth Rogen and perennial co-scribe Evan Goldberg. The thin plot centers around Dale Denton (Rogen), an aimless stoner coasting through life. He works a dead-end job dressed in various disguises and handing out subpoenas to hapless individuals. He also has a pretty high school girlfriend (Amber Heard). To unwind, Denton spends time with his new drug dealer buddy, Saul (James Franco). Saul introduces Dale to a new special edition weed known as Pineapple Express. Shortly after partaking in the high-end smoke, Denton heads off to another job where he accidentally witnesses his latest subpoena subject, Ted Jones (Gary Cole) committing a murder. He drops his joint and flees the scene in a panic. As it turns out, the murderer is also the supplier of the Pineapple Express weed, so it isn't too long before Dale and Saul are on the run. Saul's dealer, Red (Danny McBride), tries to give the duo up to Cole's goons, but after they shoot him anyway, he winds up joining the boys on the run from the evil drug dealers.
Rosie Perez, Nora Dunn and Ed Begley Jr. co-star.
It's really nice to see the "hard R" comedy back and in full effect. Judd Apatow and his band of merry goofs havealmost single-singlehandedly revived the genre, which hasn't seen this many releases since the early '80s. Even thelesser entries are heads and shoulders above almost every other comedy out there. Pineapple Express is a case in point. Even though I might not have enjoyed it as much as Knocked Up, Superbad or Walk Hard, I root for its success so that movies like this continue to be made.
David Gordon Green proves he is capable of more than moody, melodramatic indie fare. As a comedy director, some of the pacing is off a bit. As an action director, Green takes a cue from flicks like Smokey and the Bandit and Cannonball Run and succeeds swimmingly. The care chases are terrific and very unexpected in a movie like this. As Rogen has said at length, this is a "stoner action comedy" and, in that respect, it certainly delivers on all of those fronts in the course of the movie. Green directs with a sure hand and more than proves his varied abilities.
Pineapple Express is intermittently amusing. There are a decent amount of laughs overall and a few really top-notch crazy comedy moments. It's wildly inconsistent and, as much as I do love out-there, bizarre humor, at a point Pineapple feels very much like a movie Rogen and Co. made almost solely to entertain themselves. Then again, as I mentioned, I was stone-cold sober when I saw this movie and, considering the subject at hand, that may notnecessarily be the intended audience. But can stoners alone propel Pineapple to box office success? After all, a couple movie tickets is a few less ounces of that sticky icky.