August 7, 2008

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Pineapple Express (R)
Apatowian writing partners Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg go deeper into the murky bong water that is the life of a post-adolescent, pre-maturity pothead in the chuckle-worthy if not perfect comedy Pineapple Express.

Dale Denton (Rogen) is a process server who is dating a high school senior, but his true life’s love and calling is pot. He enjoys getting exceptionally high, during work hours when possible, even if it means occasionally having to hang out with his pot dealer, the sleepily charming Saul (James Franco). Saul is, we suspect, a bit lonely and rather delighted when the sweet Dale shows up and reluctantly agrees to hang out a bit and smoke a cross-shaped doobie with him. But despite these gestures to friendship, Dale’s really just in it for the weed, specifically for the super-charged, extra-special weed Saul is able to get him, weed like Pineapple Express.

There is a flaw to smoking such rare stuff, however. When Dale shows up to serve Ted Jones (Gary Cole) — coincidentally, the drug dealer who sells to Red (Danny R. McBride), who sells to Saul — with papers, he sees a sight of such horrific buzz-killing-ness that it causes him to drop his Pineapple Express joint in the street before taking off. (Also to hit two parked cars in his attempt to get away, making certain that he’s seen.) The sight he sees is Ted and police officer Carol (Rosie Perez) shooting a man, and that dropped bit of Pineapple Express is just enough for Ted to identify him and be on his trail.

The wackiness that ensues is basically a buddies-on-the-road movie, with Saul and Dale hiding in the strip-mall-encrusted landscape (with one detour to “the woods”) while Budlofsky (Kevin Corrigan) and Matheson (Craig Robinson), hitmen for Jones, chase them. If Superbad featured more shootings and less McLovin, you’d have something roughly like this movie in its male-bonding-ness. I’ve seen this film called a “bromance” and in the movies one of the guys refers to another as a “bromosexual” — both apt descriptions. It’s a kind of fifth-grade relationship these boys have with each other — like 10-year-olds, they’re aware of the opposite sex but the idea of “best friends forever” is infinitely more powerful. Though Dale declares his love for his extremely young girlfriend, his real affection seems saved for Saul. As with so many Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen movies (Apatow has a producing credit here), the guy relationships are the deepest and the sweetest.

If Step Brothers is a study of 40something man-boys who have decisively planted their flag in the land of boyness, Pineapple Express is a tale of 20something man-boys who give nods to being man — nods mostly of the car-chase and shoot-’em-up varieties. Unlike the purely relationship-centered Superbad and Knocked Up from last summer, Pineapple Express enters the realm of Grand Theft Auto-ish fantasy. And it is fantasy; Bad Boys-watching, PlayStation 2-playing potheads might dream of being on the run but they’re probably too, like, tired or whatever to leave the couch.

So, since every movie review will have to come up with one of these (it’s how Saul explains to Dale the greatness of Pineapple Express), allow me to make my if-this-one-had-a-baby-with-that-one genetic dissection of this movie: if Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle had a baby with Superbad and Hot Fuzz had a baby with the funnier parts of Death Proof and those babies had a baby, that baby’s less talented younger sibling would be this movie. Pineapple Express doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its forefathers. It doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its trailer with the excellently used M.I.A. song. But it does alright, makes you laugh enough, and gives you, via contact high perhaps, enough of a good feeling that you’re glad you came. B-

Rated R for pervasive language, drug use, sexual reference and violence. Directed by David Gordon Green and written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (from a story by Rogen, Goldberg and Judd Apatow), Pineapple Express is an hour and 51 minutes long and will open in wide release on Wednesday, Aug. 6. The film is distributed in wide release by Sony.