Judd Apatow and his team seem to have taken over the Hollywood comedy scene in the past couple of years with a string of comedic hits that have also managed to amuse the critics.
A mainstay of the team, actor and writer Seth Rogen, has lent his talents to several of these films, managing to win the hearts of audiences and critics alike with his every-man appeal.
Apatow has produced almost all of Rogen’s recent films and when the two team up as writers, box office success is pretty much guaranteed (see: The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up).
Pineapple Express brings the two together again, but this time Apatow takes a directorial backseat to indie film-maker David Gordon Green, who brings a touch of retro style to what is ultimately a fairly simple stoner movie. The plot is admittedly rather thin, but certainly the perfect set-up for the stoner hijinks of Seth Rogen and James Franco’s characters. Rogen plays Dale Denton, a high-functioning pothead who just happens to witness a murder involving corrupt police.
After accidentally involving his pot-dealer Saul (played by Franco), the two are forced to go on the run from the aforementioned corrupt police force as well as the henchman of a high-powered drug producer. Despite being a stoner-comedy, the plot is a little less ludicrous than one might expect, and it certainly has its fair share of action sequences.
The Apatow comedies are renowned for their portrayal of man-to-man platonic love, with the main characters tending to be more sensitive than the women they’re trying to woo, but Pineapple Express essentially puts the female love interest in the periphery and focuses on the growing ‘bromance’ between Dale and Saul. The two start out as friendly acquaintances, but after some amusing bickering and reconciliation, the guys ultimately end up as best friends. The fact is, Dale and Saul have better chemistry than Dale and his girlfriend.
One of the more surprising aspects of the film is James Franco’s comedic talent, as he generally tends to take more serious film roles. He makes a rather trashy character incredibly likeable, and his portrayal of a drug-dealer is (perhaps disturbingly) more authentic than many of his previous roles. Rogen plays his typical ‘affable loser’ role, (the man has most definitely been type-cast) but this time coming across as a bit more whiney, which in the action portions of the film is actually quite hilarious.
While most of the film is simply chuckle-worthy, with a few great lines here and there, it’s the supporting cast that do a particularly good job, with several of the cameo characters being far funnier than the protagonists. Rosie Perez and Gary Cole make an odd, but amusing pair of villains, but the scene involving Ed Begley Jr as the father of Dale’s girlfriend is worth the film’s price of admission.
Unfortunately, the action aspects of the film become the main attraction toward the denouement, with a lot of violence and gore that seems out of place in what is otherwise quite an innocent movie. Emerging as action heroes, Dale and Saul take out about 50 trained henchmen in the final scenes. The over-the-top violence, while funny in its gratuitousness, could easily have been replaced with a more appropriate stoner-style resolution.
The film is solidly entertaining, and certainly has more laughs than the average non-Apatow produced comedy, but it just can’t compete with other recent flicks by the team, such as Superbad and Knocked Up, which didn’t require ridiculous amounts of gore to be incredibly funny.