Perhaps appropriate for a movie filled with stoners, Pineapple Express starts off doing one thing, goes to do something else, but forgets what, exactly, that other thing was along the way.
The movie stars Seth Rogan as Dale Denton, a 25-year-old process server who gets his kicks by dressing up in elaborate disguises to get people to take their subpoenas from him. Co-star James Franco plays Saul Silver, an easygoing drug dealer who spends his time between drug deals getting high off his own product and taking care of his grandmother.
The early scenes with Rogan and Franco are probably the movie’s best, with Rogan playing straight man to Franco’s irreverent stoner. Franco gets the majority of the good lines, probably karma for having to play Harry Osborn in the Spiderman movies. The first part of the movie introduces the main characters and Pineapple Express, a special brand of weed that lends the film its name.
The plot moves along fairly quickly. It starts off with Dale witnessing Ted Jones, a drug kingpin played by Gary Cole (whom many will remember as Bill Lumbergh from Office Space), whack a rival. Dale freaks out and flees to the only place he can think of (Saul’s apartment), but not before leaving an incriminating joint chock-full of Pineapple Express at the scene of the crime.
Dale explains to Saul (who isn’t really much of a help) what’s just happened, then realizes that he’s left the easily traceable joint behind, which leads to a frantic exodus from the apartment and subsequent stoned shenanigans in the woods.
This is really the high point (you see what I did there?) of the movie. Soon after this, it starts to try a little too hard. Hot on the main character’s trails are two hit men, one of whom is played by Craig Robinson (Darryl from The Office), who turns in a great performance in a minor part.
The hit men, while amusing when they show up, also serve as posterchildren for some of what’s wrong with the movie. It starts off as a stoner comedy, then attempts to morph into a stoner buddy movie, then goes for the hat trick by trying to become a stoner action movie.
Any movie that can be reasonably connected with the phrase “stoner action movie” has something inherently misguided at its core. The room-pleasers that Franco throws around (“Wasting this joint would be like … killing a unicorn.”) are in stark contrast to drug cronies getting their feet blown off and Dale having his own Evander Holyfield moment.
Having such a confused film is perhaps not unexpected when considering that it tries to combine the efforts of director David Gordon Greene, previously responsible for more artistic films such as Undertow, and producer Judd Apatow (who brought you all those extra-quotable Will Ferrell movies).
Some storylines are introduced and then just abandoned: Dale has a relationship with a girl in high school, the fate of which, at the end of the movie, is unresolved. Meanwhile, others are forced on the audience clumsily (e.g. Ted Jones’ drug war with “the Asians”).
Overall, the movie is entertaining from start to finish, although it could have been much better if it chose one thing and did it well. Dude.