IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

‘Pineapple Express’ is bong-gone hilarious

You don’t have to be high to laugh non-stop at “Pineapple Express,” the latest offering from Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen. Prepare to make room for the DVD on your stoner-comedy shelf between “Up in Smoke” and your hackey-sack collection.
/ Source: contributor

One might expect Judd Apatow’s cavalcade of coming-of-age films — about guys who should have come of age years earlier — would be running out of steam by now. With “Pineapple Express,” however, the hit-making producer delivers another brilliantly funny comedy about man-children who finally decide to get their act together. As with “Superbad” — also written by “Pineapple” scribes Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg — Apatow and company uncover lots of laughs by working past gay panic to explore the furthest reaches of buddy-movie bonding.

Rogen stars as Dale Denton, a pothead process server who has the misfortune of witnessing a murder committed by drug kingpin Ted (Gary Cole) and crooked cop Carol (Rosie Perez), who are fighting over territory with Asian gangsters. Dale speeds away from the scene but unfortunately leaves behind a roach featuring the hard-to-find Pineapple Express weed, which can easily be traced to Dale’s spaced-out dealer Saul (James Franco). Before long, Dale and Saul are on the run for their lives, evading Saul’s connection Red (Danny McBride) and two of Ted’s gunsels, Budlofsky (Kevin Corrigan) and Matheson (Craig Robinson of “The Office”).

On paper, this sounds like just another action-packed comedy, but Rogen and Goldberg’s script give us a wonderfully oddball bunch of characters. From Dale’s love of high school girls and talk radio to Red’s genuinely odd obsessions with Buddhism and his deceased cat, “Pineapple Express” may hit the expected plot beats but it never travels from Point A to Point B via a predictable path. (Even the friendship between Dale and Saul is colored by the fact that Saul is Dale’s dealer, and Dale hates having to pretend like he’s buddies with a guy just to get him to sell him some grass.)

Director David Gordon Green (“George Washington,” “All the Real Girls”) pulls off a very delicate balance, particularly when bullets start flying and blood starts spurting in the film’s final act. Usually, the laughs disappear when the violence starts getting heavy, but “Pineapple Express” never ceases to bust the audience’s guts, even when the characters onscreen are getting shot in theirs. It’s one thing to be able to get laughs with Three Stooges–style physical antics; when a fight looks painful and hilarious at the same time, you know you’ve got a deft conductor of comedy behind the camera.

While Rogen’s ubiquity was beginning to get a little wearing this year — he provided voices for “Kung Fu Panda,” “The Spiderwick Chronicles” and “Horton Hears a Who!” — his inspired performance here reminded me all over again what a comedy treasure he has become. Whether he’s having ridiculous, ganja-fueled arguments with Saul or turning on a dime from weepy affection to bitter self-awareness during a phone conversation with his adolescent main squeeze, Dale is a layered and brilliant comic creation.

The performances here are uniformly strong — Franco has never been better, while both McBride and Robinson are very much keeping their stars on the rise — but the entire film rests on Rogen’s shoulders, and he bears the burden with aplomb.

You don’t have to be high to laugh non-stop at “Pineapple Express.” Prepare to make room for the DVD on your stoner-comedy shelf between “Up in Smoke” and your hackey-sack collection.