Somewhere between graduating from the awkward misadventures of “Superbad” and before the realization of impending fatherhood in “Knocked Up” falls the epic bromance of two misunderstood men on their journey to self-discovery in a marijuana induced state.
The screenwriting duo of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, responsible for unleashing “McLovin” into the realm of iconic pop culture lexicon from “Superbad,” are back with “Pineapple Express.”
The lead character Dale Denton, a process server whose job description requires delivering subpoenas while dressed deceptively in a range of costumes, is played by Rogen with the same perfected stoner ease which he began cultivating in “Freaks and Geeks.”
Along with Rogen and James Franco, Judd Apatow has built an entire comedy empire upon the peculiar dilemma of the eternal man-boy whose unwillingness to grow-up is always accented with an enduring love of marijuana.
In his scene stealing role as Rogen’s weed dealer, Franco plays Saul, a hippie free spirit with a penchant for civil engineering whose devotion to marijuana is surpassed only by his devotion to his grandmother. Franco literally breathes new life into a burned-out role, the weed dealer with a heart of gold that against all odds the audience finds itself rooting for.
After visiting his 18-year-old girlfriend Angie at her high school, played by Amber Heard, Denton stops by Saul’s house to make his weekly purchase. Saul sells Denton his new, extremely rare product called the Pineapple Express, which Saul eloquently characterizes as the “dopest dope I’ve ever smoked.”
They proceed to smoke an elaborately constructed cross joint that maximizes the effect of smoking three joints. From there things become somewhat blurry. Denton arrives at the home of his next unsuspecting subpoena recipient. Sitting in his parked car smoking his newly acquired product Denton has a direct view into the house. A police car arrives and within minutes Denton witnesses a murder and speeds off, not before crashing into the parked cop car and leaving his still smoking joint on the floor.
Due to the rarity of the Pineapple Express in which Saul is the only dealer to have the product, Denton and Saul believe the smoking joint left behind by Denton would be traced back to them. They decide to run away but not before packing the necessities like pickles and fruit roll-ups first. This is a stoner film after all.
Whether or not leaving a smoking joint at the scene of the crime that leads to the absurdist comedy that ensues is a reference to Franz Kafka is up for debate. Rogen and Franco’s chemistry however is solidly intact. In the scenes which follow, most notably a heroic stay in the wilderness as well as several simultaneously violent and hilarious action scenes, Saul’s yearning for Denton to become his ‘B.F.F.F,’ a friendship that’s meant to remain forever with an extra adjective added for good measure is at the heart of this unabashed stoner film.
Saul’s liaison between the drug distributor and himself is played by Danny McBride with near perfect irreverent charm as the habitually eccentric Red. The nearly two-hour film more than earns its R-rating while successfully sustaining the required suspension of belief necessary to appreciate the comedic premise. In the end what prevails are the friendships, which really would not be possible without Red’s killer Daewoo.