“Don’t need no credit card to ride this train.”
Easily the best thing about Pineapple Express is that the title song is written and performed by Huey Lewis and the News. Now, it’s no “The Power of Love” but it’s pretty good. The rest of the movie? Not so good. That’s not to say that it’s not without its moments, and I have no idea if it would be a better movie for a stoner to enjoy. I’ve never stoned, and I’m guessing that I never will – it just doesn’t interest me in the slightest. This is a stoner action movie from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the same team who wrote Superbad. Among the many good aspects of that film, one that particularly stood out was that it had no reference to marijuana at all – which had always been an important aspect of Rogen’s characters in other Apatow productions.
Pineapple Express is pretty much all of the violence and marijuana that wasn’t in Superbad, although it retains some of the homoeroticism (and adds to it bizarrely: “I want you inside me, Holmes.”), the theme of BFFF, and also involves a man saving another man by carrying him away from a scene of carnage. It basically turns into a stoner version of Hot Fuzz, deliberately styled after bad seventies movies, and isn’t particularly good in itself.
That said, it’s probably going to become some sort of huge cult movie, but not one for me.
Dale (Rogen) is a Process Server who spends his days disguising himself, serving subpoenas, and getting high. He goes to visit his dealer, Saul (James Franco, infinitely better here than in Spider-Man 3), and gets Pineapple Express, a weed so rare that it’s almost a shame to smoke it: “like killing a unicorn”. Joint in hand, Dale goes to deliver a subpoena only to witness a murder committed by Gary Cole and Lady Cop Rosie Perez – problem is Gary Cole recognises the taste of Pineapple Express and track its use down to Saul and, by connection, Dale – who go on the run and … uh, stone, and steal a car, and have a guy shot several times, and general violence ensues.
Pineapple Express has quite a few funny things in it but it’s really an awkward and unwieldy beast. I think a lot of this is quite deliberate, particularly the scenes between Cole and Perez – set in a very seventies style mansion, no less – but it’s not as fun as it should be when it tries to tackle genre (“Asian Commandoes! Check these explosions out!”) and the heart seems much more faked than it ever was in Superbad. The handling of Dale’s relationship with an eighteen year old is pretty good and realistic, and Cole’s henchmen are pretty funny as well … it’s just the movie doesn’t really click: it’s a collection of scenes that service a story but it’s not very easy to care about any of it. It’s certainly better than Drillbit Taylor, but frankly not a lot isn’t.
In many ways, it’s good that Pineapple Express got made. It’s a little smarter than other stoner fare like Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, and it hopefully means that Seth Rogen has got a very important message out to the world: he likes weed, he doesn’t care who knows it – and, dangit, now he can move onto something else.