This Week in Movies: Pineapple Express

Andrew Burford

Hot off the critical and financial successes of Knocked Up, Superbad and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, from the Apatow-led comedy troop of the past two years comes Seth Rogen and James Franco’s highly-anticipated stoner film, Pineapple Express. It’s a relatively low-budget flick with a relatively high sense of boldly unconventional Hollywood humor. Carrying with it a final price tag of $27 million, Rogen (who both starred in and wrote the film) has been quoted as saying that he was hoping for a budget from Sony of nearly double that, at about $50 million.

Nevertheless, the studio became understandably worried and subsequently refused the number. After all, a film that blends Pulp Fiction-esque violence with an endlessly crude and unusually positive look at marijuana use amongst adult males certainly would pose a potential risk to most studio executives. Still, with over $80 million pocketed domestically alone as of Monday evening, Pineapple Express has fortunately proven a risk certainly worth taking for Sony.

Is the movie itself, though, a critically successful one in the vein of Knocked Up, Superbad and Forgetting Sarah Marshall? Regretfully, not quite as much as I had hoped. Like each of those films, Pineapple Express is a film with two different layers of appreciation: one for the laughs and one for the sweet, sensitive side in all of us. However, unlike each of those films, Pineapple cannot help but feel somewhat recycled to any faithful fan of the Apatow gang. Rather than add to the genre, Pineapple tends to borrow from its predecessors more often than not. All the same, though, the film rarely disappoints those who attend the movies for the most basic of reasons, to be entertained.

After purchasing marijuana from his new dealer, Saul (as played by James Franco), for the past two months, Dale Denton (as played by Seth Rogen) finds that his relationship with Saul has accidentally become more than he had ever initially intended. Thanks to the duo’s creative use of the rarest strain of pot on the local market (properly known as ‘Pineapple Express’), Dale and Saul are forced to go on the run once Dale witnesses a murder that wrongfully links the oddball couple to the crime. And so begins a deranged cat-and-mouse plot between Dale and Saul, the corrupt cops, drug lords actually responsible for the murder and (you guessed it!) the Chinese mafia.

Despite the film’s tendency to borrow rather than add as previously mentioned, Pineapple does fortunately hold at least one exception to the trend. His name is James Franco, and he quite honestly steals the show in just about every scene with his eerily-accurate portrayal of the stoner lifestyle. For a man that claims to not smoke, Franco really nails the part and the jokes that come with his character. Something tells me he’s now a welcome member to the Apatow clan.

In the end, Pineapple Express is worth seeing, at the very least for a less expensive matinee price. The film marks director David Gordon Green’s first real step into Hollywood fanfare, and it does so with humorous style. Thumbs up.