Movie Review: Pineapple Express

Pineapple Express2008. Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco. Directed by David Gordon Green.

The cinematic love-child of Pulp Fiction and Up in Smoke, conceived in a beanbag and delivered during a coughing fit, Pineapple Express is a buddy movie that somehow devolves into an over-the-top bloodbath. Seth Rogen and his co-writer Evan Goldberg wrote the screenplay years ago, and Rogen’s success in Knocked Up, Superbad, and The 40-Year-Old Virgin helped get this made, as well as getting Rogen the lead in the upcoming The Green Lantern epic.

Rogen stars as a process server who wants to be a talk-radio host, but spends much of his time with his unlikely high-school girlfriend and buying pot from the world’s sweetest dealer, played by Franco, who offers a rare blend called Pineapple Express. When Rogen witnesses a murder committed by Franco’s boss, and he’s tracked by the particular brand of weed found at the scene, he scoops up Franco and the pair make a clumsy escape.

There are many funny moments in the first half of the film, including a first round of vicious, cartoonish beatings, and a chase scene in a stolen squad car that seals the buddies’ fate is one of the funnier ones I’ve seen. But once the crime boss (Gary Cole, legendary as Office Space’s Bill Lumbergh) enters the story, most of the laughs evaporate in the gunfire. There are several half-ideas, including the young girlfriend and her unapproving parents, the drug dealer’s devotion to his grandmother, and the competing “Asian” syndicate pulled into a turf war.

Losing one or all of these false starts, and focusing on the buddy relationship would have turned this from a harsh toke to a mellow ride. Franco is funny and likeable, dropping squinty non-sequiters and worrying about his new “BFFF” (the extra F is for what you think it’s for). Rogen plays the straight man (no pun intended, I swear) but takes on a little bit too much for himself. The movie is best and most real when the two are together, arguing about how to escape or how to realize their dreams (Franco’s dealer wants to be a civic engineer, so he can design things like “septic systems for playgrounds, so that little kids can take a shit”).

Choosing Pulp Fiction as an influence (instead of Dumb and Dumber, which it also resembles) means that those dreams gotta take a couple bullets. But the bullets used in Pineapple Express, while plentiful, don’t seem very lethal — I don’t quite understand how someone shot in the stomach twice can eat as many meals in the following 24 hours. And where did all those facial injuries disappear to? And even if a pot warehouse explodes in the woods, and there are no cops to hear it, doesn’t it attract some attention? Is there something in pot that makes a movie reviewer suspend all his disbelief?

Sorry if I’m bumming you out. I liked Superbad a lot more, but Pineapple Express isn’t a bad way to waste a couple hours.

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