In cinema as in life, stoners are not men of action. The heaviest weight they’ll ever lift is a Camberwell Carrot; the fastest they’ll ever move is to mosey on down to White Castle when they get a baaad case of the munchies.
And yet potheads of the pictures forever find themselves nose-deep in a shitstorm. Cheech and Chong unwittingly became international smugglers. Bill and Ted traversed history, battled Death. And The Dude – poor, hapless, beautiful schmuck The Dude – was hounded by a porn baron, a Latino child molester, a crazed Vietnam vet and German nihilists.
Trust the Judd Apatow stable to up the ante. That’s right: Pineapple Express is a stoner action flick, taking all that ’80s machismo and blowing it up in smoke. Just imagine John McClane bent double, lungs wracked, clouded in pungent puff, fighting not just the bad guys but also the urge to vomit… Plot? It’s lost. OK, for what it’s worth: office worker Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) and his dealer Saul Silver (James Franco) find themselves on the run – well, more of a shuffling stumble, really – after Dale witnesses a drug kingpin (Gary Cole) blown away by a cop (Rosie Perez) and stupidly leaves a hash trail behind at the scene.
And that’s it. Scribbled on the back of Rizlas by Rogen and his Superbad buddy Evan Goldberg and directed with cherry-glow warmth by David Gordon Green (George Washington, All The Real Girls), Pineapple Express is loose and ragged and appropriately so – an improv-heavy meander through a succession of screwy sight gags, absurd face-offs and drawled one-liners. Some of it’s hilarious, most of it works and all of it will grow in our affections on DVD, in the privacy of our own living rooms. Cough.
Not that you need to be a stoner to breathe in the joys of this Judd Apatow joint. As a loving, piss-taking pastiche of ’80s action cinema, it’s as sharp as Hot Fuzz (and less repetitive), gleefully lingering on every fistfight and shoot-out, devotedly fingering all wounds (like Hot Fuzz, it’s a violent, bloody movie – all part of the joke). Better still is the playful petting of buddy conventions. Hell, if you thought Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break teased out homoerotic undertones, wait ’til you get a load of Dale and Saul. Wafting chemistry from every pore, Rogen and a revelatory Franco let it all hang out – almost literally so when the former emerges from a flower of flames (in glorious slo-mo, natch) in just his pants, the latter cradled in his arms.
Pineapple Express is too long and too jubilantly stoopid to deliver the emotional kick of Knocked Up, but it’s well worth a toke. Several, in fact, as this is a film destined for cultdom. Good shit, dude.
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