As much as I like my highbrow cinema, I will admit that I am a sucker for some of the films Judd Apatow has produced, like Knocked Up, Superbad, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall (also I absolutely adore the killed-before-it really-had-a-chance television series Freaks and Geeks). This time around the talented David Gordon Green has been hired to take the helm of the Apatow-produced summer blockbuster comedy/action flick Pineapple Express. Up to this point, Green’s films, which include George Washington and All the Real Girls, have been relegated to independent financing and art house obscurity. This time around he’s using Hollywood’s money and a very funny script written by Seth Roegen and Evan Goldberg—the duo that also gave us Superbad—to bring us a crazy funny film where a bunch of stuff blows up.
Seth Roegen plays Dale, a twenty something, pot smoking process server who takes delighted pride in his job. Saul, played by Roegen’s Freaks and Geeks co-star James Franco, is Dale’s local drug dealer who has confused their business relationship with friendship. Because of this, Saul offers Dale the most precious and rare of pot: Pineapple Express, a strong blend of which Saul is the exclusive dealer.
Bumbling Dale accidentally witnesses a drug war murder involving a corrupt cop (Rosie Perez) and a big time drug lord (Gary Cole). Flying into a paranoid, frightened, fender bending tizzy Dale takes off for Saul’s apartment to explain. They spend the rest of the movie making poor decisions, driving fast, getting maimed, and trying to keep the ones they love out of harm’s way.
This film is to car chase films what Shaun of the Dead is to zombie movies: it lovingly pokes fun at the conventions of the genre it parodies while taking itself just seriously enough to mark it’s own inclusion within the genre. Like Superbad and Knocked Up, there are plenty of bromance mixed with genitalia jokes and seventh grade humor. There is also a lot of gory violence earning its R rating, but added to the mix are copious amounts of action and some of the most hilarious, cringe inducing, fight scenes I’ve ever witnessed. It is clear that they watched too many bad action flicks growing up, but I’m so glad that they did. Roegen and Franco make a wonderful pair of incompetent yet surprisingly lovable losers.
But this film does more than simply amuse, it also takes a swipe at social conventions. Dale’s relationship with a high school girl seems natural and fitting. This is partially due to the honesty afforded to the characters insecurities; Dale can’t seem to understand why this pretty girl would be attracted to a big doof like him when there are swarms of good-looking jocks flocking around her all day at school. One of the main conflicts in the film deals with the friendship between Dale and Saul. It’s not until Dale faces death that he is able to admit that he doesn’t care what society has to say, he is comfortable at being good at a sucky job and with his drug supplier being his best friend. The emotional quality attached to these characters keeps them from becoming archetypes and adds weight to the film. Even the “bad-guys” are given some humorous emotional moments, finding that sometimes they just want to go home and have dinner.
Known only for his previous dramatic efforts, David Gordon Green shows that he has what it takes to handle the all out comedy/action film with finesse. While the editing is much more rapid than what we’re used to with his previous Malick-inspired movies, Green is sensitive to the sentimental moments, knowing when to let the camera linger. While there was plenty of action in his low budget film Undertow, here Green has enough cash (although not as much as you’d expect) to perform some crazy stunts with plenty of explosions and all out shenanigans.
If you like the aforementioned Apatow films, you’re probably going to enjoy this one as well.