PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (2008, directed by David Gordon Green, 111 minutes, U.S.)
BY DAN BUSKIRK, FILM CRITIC
The Judd Apatow Comedy Machine is turning out yucks at such a dizzying pace I’m beginning to anticipate it sharpening to a fine tune and creating a universally-acknowledged instant classic — although I am not holding my breath. The Apatow brand may well have hidden ambitions to greatness but it seems almost unfair to expect it from their latest summer blockbuster, the stoner comedy Pineapple Express, wherein Seth Rogen’s lumpy-gravy likability teams up with James Franco’s loose-limbed, drug-addled slapstick sidekick for a shoot-em-up car-chase action/adventure saga on high.
Rogen plays Dale, a goofy broken-down process server who rolls around in his beater serving subpoenas while stoned. Dale keeps a friendly yet nervous distance from his dealer, the pleasantly addled Saul (Franco) who supplies the killer bud of the title. When Dale witnesses a murder he drops his roach and runs, allowing the weed-savvy killer (Office Space‘s Gary Cole) to trace the scent back to Saul. Over one paranoid night Saul and Dale run for their lives, pursued by bad vibes, a homicidal Rosie Perez (sadly underused) — and this being an Apatow film — their own barely-suppressed homosexual urges.
Directed by David Gordon Green (George Washington), Pineapple Express scurries along in fits and starts, occasionally showing little flourishes meant to evoke 80’s action comedies like Beverly Hill Cop or Fletch (Huey Lewis & the News have even been painstakingly re-assembled for the film’s theme song). Making the most of the “Bronson Pinchot” role is Danny McBride as Red. Red really taps into the id of masculine discomfort: he’s a big sweaty, huggy, pot dealer who dresses like an ’80s Bears fan and casually lets it slip that he once was a prostitute. McBride kills the role like Bill Murray in Caddyshack, allowing the Apatow camp to up the weird sexual tension that keep seeping into their films.
Funny that director Green is best known for his dreamy post-Malick style of rural innocence, an approach he abandons except for a love-style montage of Dale and Saul playing in streams and meadows like a 1970s ad for Coke.Yeah, its more of the same Apatow sweetness, jokes and guy/guy romance except for the strangely off-kilter final showdown, where the high-on-nature characters actually shoot down the drug kingpin’s faceless henchmen. But even that somehow fits the film’s loopy logic: while they should have shored up their tough guy cred, they instead got stoned and missed it.