Review: 'Pineapple Express'
Black comedy about the adventures of two potheads is fitfully amusing but over the top on gross-out gore.
Fresh off the Judd Apatow assembly line comes "Brideshead Revisited." Oops. Wait. Scratch that. "Pineapple Express" is what I meant to say. But here's one bit of incongruity you might appreciate. This goony, so-so comedy about two pothead buddies was directed by David Gordon Green, a filmmaker previously known for his artsy, low-budget, low-grossing fare about the sensitivities of young adults. Is Apatow in the business of anointing starving artists?
Whatever his motives, his product line is becoming predictable, which may, of course, be the whole point. It's not just the actors who are interchangeable but the plots, too. The omnipresent Seth Rogen is with us once again. Playing Dale Denton, a chubster who earns his living as a process server and spends his off-hours romancing Angie (Amber Heard), who's still in high school, Rogen is lucky – or maybe it's unlucky – to be paired with James Franco, who livens things up and steals almost every scene they're in. Franco's Saul Silver is a hippie-dippie dealer whose prize possession is a high-grade form of marijuana called Pineapple Express. When the two guys end up pursued by a drug lord and his goons, they bond. In Apatow movies, bonding is always a biggie. In fact, there hasn't been this much male bonding since the heyday of the western.
As these things go, "Pineapple Express" is fitfully amusing but not up to the level of, say, Cheech and Chong's "Up in Smoke." But I should point out that this R-rated movie is replete with shootings, stabbings, and gougings – all of which are supposed to be blackly comic but struck me as just black. Gore and yucks are not an easy combination to pull off and Team Apatow simply do not have the skills.
The gross-out gore is probably in the movie to connect with the core teen male audience. But watching a guy being stabbed and sliced doesn't sit well on the stomach, especially when we're supposed to be laughing. If Apatow wants to indulge in this sort of thing, why doesn't he just make a horror-film parody? (Rated R for pervasive language, drug use, sexual references, and violence.)