“Pineapple Express” Smokes Genre Competitors, Sets New High

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By Mitch Ringenberg
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Whether he’s directing or producing, Judd Apatow is slowly becoming one of the most reliable names in comedy in terms of sheer quality. Apatow has been on a roll lately, critically and commercially, with huge comedy hits such as “Superbad,” “Knocked Up” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” and “Pineapple Express” is sure to be received by audiences and critics with the same kind of enthusiasm.

While most of Apatow’s comedies contain humor that seems to appeal more to men than women, most of his films can be enjoyed by both sexes almost equally. “Pineapple Express,” however, is almost strictly a “guy” movie. By that, I mean it contains almost no female protagonists, plenty of vulgar language, lots of drug humor, gross-out scenes and a surprising amount of fistfights, guns and explosions.

This time Apatow serves as a producer and has David Gordon Green as a director. This is foreign territory for a director like Green, who is known for making critically acclaimed indie films such as “Snow Angels” and the excellent “George Washington.” While “Pineapple Express” may not win him any awards, this movie can proudly stand its ground against other classic “stoner” comedies such as “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “Up In Smoke” and “Half Baked,” not to mention almost all of Apatow’s productions.

The plot of “Pineapple Express” is pretty standard. Two goofy potheads, played almost flawlessly by James Franco and Seth Rogen, are being pursued by both cops and drug dealers alike after one of them witnesses a mob hit. What follows are the hilarious misadventures and scenarios they find themselves in along the way.

“Pineapple Express” is one of the few action-comedy films (or maybe in this case, comedy-action films) I’ve seen that have actually worked. Too often these movies seem to either take themselves far too seriously or not seriously enough. This movie finds a nice middle ground between the two and never crosses either line.

Part of what makes this film work so well is the comedic chemistry between the two main characters. Many comedies fail and simply make their heroes unlikable, selfish morons, but “Pineapple Express” doesn’t make that mistake and instead finds a way for you to sympathize and like the characters.

None of this material is very groundbreaking or high brow, of course, but coming into a movie like this, you shouldn’t expect it to be. If you’ve seen the ads for the movie and don’t think you’ll like it, chances are you won’t, but if you’re either a fan of Apatow/Rogen comedies, or you love buddy/stoner comedies, then “Pineapple Express” is well worth your time.

Grade: A-
Rated: R
Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride
Director: David Gordon Green