Pineapple Express blows a cloud of smoke cruelly in the face of other comedies this summer. It’s a movie about idiots who get in over their heads. Though the plot is more predictable and doesn’t explain every detail clearly, it’s the first comedy this year that keeps you giggling all the way through.
Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) leads a meager existence. A process server, he delivers subpoenas to people who shake off their court dates. Like a poor man’s Fletch, Denton ambushes his targets by donning costumes. I wouldn’t be surprised if some unemployed actors in Los Angeles have this job. One night, he parks his car and takes one last puff of a joint before delivering a summons to Ted Jones (Gary Cole). Through a living room window, he witnesses Jones shoot an unarmed man. Panicked, Denton drives away and accidentally drops his joint. Unfortunately, it’s filled with a rare strain of marijuana called Pineapple Express, of which Jones is the sole supplier. He assumes Denton works for his competitors. Denton and his drug dealer, Saul Silver (James Franco), need an escape plan. The problem is they’re totally high.
A stoner action movie sounds like a weird concept but it isn’t actually jarring. Pineapple Express focuses on being a stoned-out chase story with many pot-themed parodies of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Die Hard, and The Bourne Identity. Of course, it has to call attention to its absurd roots in the Cheech and Chong genre. The movie’s opening flashes back to the 1950s where military scientists administer marijuana to soldiers while dressed in deep sea diving suits.
Genre parodies these days usually feel cheap, but director David Gordon Green puts together a flashy action movie that’s also hilarious. Towards the end of the film, Dale and Saul shoot their way out of Jones’s indoor pot farm. We get a wonderful shot of them running through towering pot plants. Unseen gunmen shoot at them like this a Vietnam War movie. The movie also generates real tension like when the hitmen break into Dale’s girlfriend’s house.
Like their last movie Superbad, writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg explore the theme of friends with differences. This time, their story loosely compares Dale and Saul to hit men Budlofsky (Kevin Corrigan) and Matheson (Craig Robinson). Both deal with personality clashes in different ways. Their writing for Pineapple Express is a little rougher. Dale starting a drug war between Jones and the Asian Mafia is kind of ridiculous. Having many informants, including police officers, how could Jones not find out this guy is a nobody? The subplot about Dale’s girlfriend and her parents is resolved too quickly. But the movie is still very funny.
Thank goodness for Pineapple Express. This summer has been action packed, but lacking in the humor department. With titles like Step Brothers, I was afraid gross-out comedies were running out of jokes. Pineapple Express is the funniest comedy of the summer.