Pineapple Express is a stoner film yet it's something more. Yes, it's also an action movie but it's something more than that. It's a buddy comedy. A buddy comedy where the friendship that arises feels so strange and unexpected that in the end it feels so real and natural. Well, don't rely on a Judd Apatow movie to succumb to stereotype.
First we meet Dale Denton (Seth Rogen). He's a process server who drives around in his car all day and hands out subpoenas to unsuspecting citizens in between joint hits. To pick up a new stash he goes to his dealer Saul (James Franco, perfectly cast), who sits around his apartment all day and watches TV while waiting for customers. Saul gives Dale this new type of weed called Pineapple Express. The stuff is so powerful, even Saul has a coughing fit over it.
Later that night, Dale is about to hand out a subpoena to a man named Ted Jones (Office Space's Gary Cole) who happens to be Saul's dealer. Before going in Dale decides to try out his new weed. Suddenly, he's become a murder witness after watching Ted and "female cop" (Rosie Perez) shoot someone. In a rush, Dale drops his roach and speeds away. Well, it turns out Saul is the only one with Pineapple Express in the entire city, and the roach gets traced right back to him. Now, Dale and Saul find themselves on the run from corrupt cops and a gigantic drug war about to begin.
Perhaps the funniest joke of Pineapple Express is the fact that everything Dale and Saul fear is about to happen is not weed-filled paranoia; these two are actually being traced and chased in every way imaginable (well, minus the foxes, bloodhounds, and barracudas). It also helps the characters break away from stoner movie stereotype and seem more like a bunch of stoned guys who are well...actually in a lot of trouble.
Everything that makes this movie so great can be attributed to the writing team of best friends who met at Bar Mitzvah class of Rogen and Evan Goldberg. They previously wrote last year's brilliant team comedy Superbad. This film is a lot like Superbad for many reasons. There's that witty pop culture dialogue infused throughout the story (less so in this movie though) and the moving inner-story about friendship amidst the humor.
Overall, it is the dialogue that's the best part of the movie. Rather than just being there to explain the story it shows simple human conversation. People interacting with each other like they normally would because, well, life isn't a movie. The dialogue is so very free flowing that many scenes seem like they're improvised (such as the hilarious scene where Dale and another character, Red, look for guns) even though many probably aren't. This helps move the story along through character development rather than lame plot devices and cliches.
With the exception of a few herpes jokes, Pineapple Express is much less raunchy than other Apatow films. It trades in raunch for violence. And even though it's a comedy, the violence isn't cartoony but extremely graphic and realistic. The action doesn't way down the film and turn it serious. A perfect balance of serious action sequences and comedy is instilled in every scene so the movie never turns into a serious drama.
The film is directed by David Gordon Green. He seems like an odd choice for a film like this, as he is the directors of such critically lauded indie films as Undertow and George Washington. I still have yet to see any of his other movies (which I will try to now) but you can see he puts in an artistic sort of style into the directing with freeze frames, fast motion scenes and such. Green's directing helps give the story a good balance of mainstream appeal and good old fashioned story telling.
Pineapple Express shows why the Apatow gang is truly the funniest in Hollywood right now. They can make a comedy just right, and Pineapple Express is just that. They've made a plot about stoners that isn't too over-the-top or stereotypical. And some of the situations the characters get into would make us hate them in any other film but here it is done just right. Take for example, 25-year-old Dale's relationship with a high school girl (Amber Heard). Any other movie would make it seem just plain creepy and atrocious but this movie portrays it in a way so that it may be slightly creepy but there's something about it that's also kind of sweet, for the fact that Dale doesn't seem to care about age yet it also shows his need to grow up already.
Before I forget, the funniest performance in the movie is by James Franco. He nails Saul's character perfectly from his weird laugh to the way he dresses. Every time he opens his mouth you can't help but laugh yet you manage to take him seriously as you see all he wants is a friend. He helps make the unexpected friendship between him and Dale seem extremely convincing. Well Saul, I guess it's okay to dip that pen in company ink sometimes.
The Apatow gang has thus far reinvented the romantic comedy, the buddy comedy, the high school comedy, and now the stoner comedy. It's a genre with great potential. Pineapple Express shows that a stoner movie doesn't just have to be a bunch of guys passing a bong around and giggling at their own jokes for two hours. It can work if you make it original and add a human story to the mix. Pineapple Express has set ground for maybe the final comedy frontier to be explored: the action comedy. Until I see Tropic Thunder next week, Pineapple Express is far and away the funniest movie of the year.