Pineapple Express officially dethrones Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle as the best weed movie of the last 10 years. An action thriller featuring heroes seriously impaired by their pot consumption, it’s just another reason to call Seth Rogen one of the best comic actors working today. It also gives us reason to take note of the comic talents of James Franco, who absolutely kills as a stoner whose exclusive line of marijuana gets him into a world of trouble.
Process Server Dale Denton (Rogen) has a good life. He drives around all day, changing into fun costumes to serve people with court papers. He smokes a lot of reefer, which requires frequent visits to his wasted dealer, Saul Silver (Franco). Saul is the exclusive area dealer of the very potent weed Pineapple Express, and he sells some to Dale, who immediately commences inhalation. While parked in front of a house enjoying his purchase, Dale witnesses a sadistic drug lord (Gary Cole) and dirty cop (Rosie Perez) murdering one of their rivals.
Dale goes on the run, taking Saul with him for reasons I won’t give away. What follows is a very funny, ultra-creative thriller that reminds me of old school action films like Nighthawks and Beverly Hills Cop, with the one major distinction being that the protagonists are constantly stoned.
The film is directed by the very talented David Gordon Green, whose previous works include George Washington, All the Real Girls and Snow Angels. His crossover to comedy is not unlike Paul Thomas Anderson’s work on Punch-Drunk Love. It’s constantly funny, but there’s a reasonable amount of depth to Green’s filmmaking. He shoots a good-looking picture, and he also opts for a serious violent approach. If you can’t handle massive bloodletting, this isn’t for you.
Watching Rogen and Franco in fist and gun fights is the stuff of movie dreams. There’s a car chase where we actually get to hear Franco exclaim, “I can see through my leg hole!” and it’s a gut-busting moment. The film’s finale, a nicely staged demolition of a pot factory posing as a farmhouse, is expert, quality action-filmmaking. Love the moment where Rogen sails through the air superhero style to take out his enemy.
Rogen is truly evolving into a sustainable comic force. He and his co-writer Seth Goldberg have delivered a spectacular follow-up to their Superbad script, and they are proving to be the most gifted comedy writers going. Rogen has a way with his line deliveries that makes everything feel natural and/or improvised. When he gets started on a comic riff, he just builds and builds until what started as merely funny becomes truly hilarious. It’s a blessed thing watching him work.
Franco is the perfect complement to Rogen’s character. I count his very first moment in the film, eating strawberries and guffawing at “The Jeffersons,” as one of the year’s funniest, and he maintains that level of humor throughout his performance. He’s one of the great all-time screen stoners. You will hear comparisons to Sean Penn’s Spicoli, and Brad Pitt’s Floyd, and the comparisons are much deserved. Danny McBride is also seriously funny as fellow dealer Red, a man who gets caught up in the situation and has a major talent for taking bullets.
It’s a great thing when a movie comes along that bends genres. Pineapple Express makes you laugh while remaining totally interesting as a thriller piece. I never thought I’d see Seth Rogen as an action hero, or James Franco displaying comic genius. Pineapple Express delivers this, and so much more. It’s one of the summer’s greatest surprises. Rogen has mentioned the possibility of the continued adventures of Dale and Saul, and that’s definitely something I would want to see.