After taking on the sex comedy in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and redefining the coming-of-age film in Superbad, comedy filmmaker Judd Apatow makes his first action-comedy in Pineapple Express, billed as “a Midnight Run for the stoner set” about two lazy guys on the run and their comic attempt to stay one step ahead of a band of vicious killers. Process server Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) has a grudging business relationship with the laconic dope dealer Saul Silver (James Franco), deigning to visit only to purchase Saul’s primo product – a rare new strain of marijuana called Pineapple Express. But when Dale becomes the only witness to a murder by a crooked cop (Rosie Perez) and the city’s most dangerous drug lord (Gary Cole), he panics and dumps the Pineapple Express at the scene. When it’s traced back to him, Dale and Saul run for their lives… and they quickly discover that they’re not just suffering from drug-fuelled paranoia.
Pineapple Express uses comedy to say that nothing good comes from getting high according to Apatow, producer of the new action-comedy. “All these guys’ lives are a mess, they are going nowhere and, hopefully, almost getting murdered makes them rethink their current way of life.” Taking inspiration from films like Midnight Run and Pulp Fiction, the filmmakers were aware that they had to put the characters in real peril to trigger the action that drives the storyline. The hook for the filmmakers was to create characters so stupid and lost, that it would take someone trying to murder them for them to realize that they need to get their act together. Described the the US press as “the first stoner” movie (had they never seen the Cheech & Chong movies of the 80s?), Pineapple Express was the right idea with an overall poor execution. With its star, Rogen, also the writer, it seems at times like the filmmakers can’t quite believe their good fortune that someone has given them a few million dollars to film something they might have done for free. Packed with the usual array of teen-style jokes audiences will have become used to from their previous outings, the car chases and shootouts around this demon weed do run on a bit too long. Of all the roles, Franco as Saul Silver is spot on the money as the double-jointed (no pun intended…..) and ultra laid-back dealer with a brain-dead philosophy on life, love and the whole damn thing. Devoted to marijuana as the most important thing in life, he compares a toke of the wicked Pineapple Express as being akin to killing a unicorm. Directed by David Gordon Green, the helter-skelter of being chased is mixed with an unlikely romance between Rogen and high school princess Angie (Amber Heard) – but sadly an arrangement that ends too early in the story. Because the murder victim that prompts the chase is Asian, the script is peppered with ethnic humour centering on chopsticks, kung-fu movies and the like – all bathed in a 1970s Age of Acquarius nostalgia. The film has its share of chuckles – something the stoners in the audience will no doubt enjoy. Overall, however, it’s a one-trick pony whose humour begins to feel over-worked and jaded after the first half hour.