Judd Apatow's 'Pineapple Express' is a refreshing cinematic herb taking what could've been standard stoner fare and injecting a top notch action film within, complete with shootouts and explosions reminiscent of Lethal Weapon and Rush Hour.
Seth Rogen is Dale Denton, a clever process server delivering subpoenas to people in various costumes from delivery man to doctor, pissing off everyone in the process (no pun intended). During his free time, he visits his barely legal girlfriend in high school and smokes enough pot to make people in the next state consider rehab. His herbal supplier is Saul (James Franco), a likable stoner stereotype who looks so much like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo that you expect him to say "Zoinks." Saul has an almost savant type innocence and a desperate need of friendship. When referring to the high blend sticky dubbed Pineapple Express, he waxes on that it's so rare that smoking it is like "killing a unicorn."
During a late night attempt to serve drug kingpin Ted Jones (Gary Cole), Denton witnesses Jones and crooked cop Carol (Rosie Perez) shoot a rival dealer in the back of the head. Ouch. Denton is tracked down due to the titular joint he discarded and soon he and Saul are on the lam and pulled into an adventure with more violence than a Grand Theft Auto trilogy.
In what easily could've been called "Bromancing the Stoned," Pineapple Express features a familiar staple of Apatow films such as Superbad: male bonding. Co-writers Rogan, Apatow and Superbad alum Evan Goldberg aren't scared of letting men share their feelings. Unfortunately, the longer it goes, the creepier it gets. Luckily, you're too busy laughing to let it get to you.
The violence deviates from the normal Apatow path, but indie director David Gordon Green (Undertow) balances out the gruesome with Pythonesque results. The closing scene of the three heroes is almost a nod to a The Holy Grail's Black Knight.
James Franco easily steals scenes with his near homoerotic profession of love (in a friendly way) for Rogen to leading one of the craziest chase scenes of the year. Danny McBride as the near indestructible Red is hilarious as he struggles between being a spacey coward and a watered down Rambo delivering the line "You just got killed by a Daewoo Lanos!" that is funny on so many levels. And watching ecologically friendly nice guy Ed Begley, Jr turn Elmer Fudd alone is worth the price of admission.
Dale has an epiphany when he realizes he's "not very functional" when he's high and conversely, you don't have to be a stoner to enjoy Pineapple Express, the movie, that is.
Rated: R (for strong language, drug use, sexual references and violence) Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Billy Tatum gives Pineapple Express 4 (out of 5) Scoops