Entertainment Weekly recently dubbed the former “Freaks and Geeks” crew the “new kings of comedy” after stellar performances and writing from Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen. This dynamic duo already put out a string of comedic hits like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and 2007’s box office smash, Superbad. But their latest, Pineapple Express, is an envelope-pushing, violent spin on their predecessors formula; one that ends up with mixed results.
Starring Rogen and a scene-stealing James Franco, the former Freaks and Geekscastmates play two pot-addicted losers who end up having to go on the run from a ruthless drug kingpin Ted Jones (Gary Cole). What is extremely good about Pineapple Express is the aforementioned Franco. A method actor who miraculously knocks out Tyrese in another flick, Franco really dives into his role of Saul, a happy-go-lucky drug dealer who looks for companionship from his favorite customer Dale Denton (Rogen). Anyone familiar with Rogen and his antics, you know that it can go a little long in the tooth, but in this film, it is Franco who smooths out Rogen’s edges with spot-on accuracy.
What else works in this stoner’s nirvana work of art is the fact that the jokes are crisp and filled with one liners (“Pineapple Express… it’s like… God’s vagina!) and pop culture references. The writing is courtesy Rogen and partner-in-prose, Evan Goldbergand when the action starts to pick up, the jokes subtly taper off.
And that’s where Pineapple Express begins to fall apart. While the humor is still moderately impressive, it comes off a formulaic (how many white guys with black-talk are we going to see?) and rehashed. The kick is to add in adventure, but since the dynamic duo of Saul and Dale are blunted throughout the entire movie, the action is purely coincidental. In one scene, Saul “rescues” Dale from a truant cop’s car, only to get into a car chase with Ted Jones’ right-hand woman, Carol (Rosie Perez). Which is pretty funny, given the fact that Saul sticks his foot through the front windshield and gets it stuck.
But the movie falls flat, becoming slapstick humor as it reaches the third and final act. As the droopy eyed team are forced to get out of Ted Jones hideout, bullets are blazing and a seemingly endless supply of guns are everywhere at Saul and Dale’s disposal. There are only so many violent run-ins that the audience were able to handle until the “ha ha’s” became “eww’s.” The scenes get pretty out there for this well-earned R-rated flick; pieces of ear are blown off, heads are slammed into objects like walls and sinks and chest are pumped full of lead.
This half-baked hybrid of murderous hijinks and stoner laughs works only for so long. Does it have enough green to go against The Dark Knight for box-office supremacy? Only time will tell, but until then, Pineapple Express is that regular chron-chron that’ll keep your high going for only a half hour… too bad this movie is 112 minutes.