"You're high as a fucking kite!" That line is uttered by the mother of twenty-five year-old stoner Dale Denton's high school girlfriend at a dinner where he tries to explain the absurd situation he has found himself in, and the immediate danger to his girlfriend and her family. The thing is, at that moment, he is telling the truth; it's just that it sounds like some outrageously paranoid delusion that only someone stoned out of their mind could concoct. And so goes the entirety of PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, a film so sublimely off-kilter and outrageous that it seems like the wet dream of its two main characters after having a smoking binge on the couch after watching too many action movies before passing out.
The film, scripted by Seth Rogen, who plays Dale, and his buddy Evan Goldberg (the pair that also wrote last year's fantastic SUPERBAD), is directed by David Gordon Green, a filmmaker who, until now, has specialized in low-key indie fare, and has been quite adept at it. His films GEORGE WASHINGTON and ALL THE REAL GIRLS, for example, are two of the few examples of truly incredible work in independent film. With PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, Green shows he more than has the chops for the big-time, and that he probably deserves the opportunity to import more of his own brand of drama and humor into the mainstream market.
PINEAPPLE EXPRESS follows Dale Denton, who goes on the run with his pot dealer Saul after witnessing a murder by a powerful drug lord. The two are tracked by hired hitmen based on the rarity of the weed they were in possession of (that Dale dropped at the murder scene) - called Pineapple Express - and through constant botched logic, end up getting into some rather serious shit. The film plays like a stoner comedy with action movie plotting, succeeding in combining some seemingly incompatible genres, and in pointing out the ridiculous nature of most "serious" films, much like last year's more brilliant HOT FUZZ.
When the drug lord comes on, it's like gangbusters, and the pair find themselves in car chases, shootouts and fistfights that defy logic and common sense, but fit perfectly within the realistic fantasy-milieu of the film. The best of these sequences, the car chase between Rosie Perez's corrupt police officer and Saul (also in a police cruiser), and the climactic battle on the pot farm that, literally, pulls out all the stops are so brutal yet flat-out hilarious that just to fathom them in their entirety is an ordeal in and of itself. Seriously, these things could have only been dreamed up by an inebriated soul.
If there's one standout thing in PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, it's definitely James Franco's performance as Saul, which is achingly hilarious, and definitely as awards-worthy as Heath Ledger's Joker. Any fan of FREAKS AND GEEKS will tell you that he is more than capable of carrying comedy, but after a film career of being cast in somber roles, Franco is finally showing that spark that he had all those years ago, and is really hitting his stride. As Saul he is lovable and carefree, and every moment spent away from him is a lesser one. He provides the heart of the film - searching for a friend, looking after his grandmother - and eventually pulls Rogen's Dale back from the self-destructive cynicism he employs earlier on, and grows out of by the end of things.
The final scene, in which the duo, along with their injured friend Red, a mid-level dealer who originally was ratting them out, are eating breakfast is true to form. After all, what would stoners do after such excitement except reminisce over pancakes and omelettes? Hell, I do that after simply seeing a movie in which all of that happens. Then, they leave the restaurant in Saul's grandmother's (Bubby) car and they need her to drop Red by the hospital. Fitting, no?
In short, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS is a fun way to end the summer season, even if you're not a stoner, because there's a lot to laugh at here. Franco's performance is a winner, and that alone is worth the price of admission. And don't let the silly premise fool you into thinking it's not that good. The film is a fresh concept in a glutted comedy landscape, and, to paraphrase one of the film's best lines, its like God's vagina.