When Seth Rogen’s character Dale Denton is extolling the many virtues of marijuana early in his latest ‘comedy’, one of the listed benefits is that it ‘makes bad movies good’. Perhaps that is the key to appreciating Pineapple Express, although one suspects no amount of drug assistance could save it from its own flaws.
Dale is a Process Server – one of those guys that deliver subpoenas with the line ‘you’ve been served’ – and he is good at his job. With multiple costumes allowing him to infiltrate many different workplaces in order to serve his summons, he also gets time while waiting for his subjects to indulge in his favourite pasttime of getting stoned and then calling talkback radio. When he witnesses a crime while waiting to ‘serve’ a drug lord, Dale sets off a sequence of events that will mean both he and his dealer Saul (James Franco) will be running for their own lives.
Written by box office golden pair Judd Apatow and Rogen, Pineapple Express has ‘hit’ written all over it. Apatow has rarely ‘missed’ in recent years, and Rogen is his star of choice. Disappointingly, then, it seems most of their films are cut with a cookie cutter – man-child/slacker gets himself into trouble but is a good person underneath it all and thus wins the audience over in spite of his behavioural flaws. It would be nice (and almost surprising) to see something else from this pair.
The charm that Rogen showed as the sidekick in The 40 Year Old Virgin is largely absent in much of his work since, and there are no surprises in Pineapple Express. For those that love his overweight, hairy oaf with a smart mouth act, this film may satisfy more than expected, however even his most ardent fans must be hoping for something more in future movies. Franco is adequate as the permanently stoned drug dealer with an interest in civil engineering, although he never really shines. He and Rogen work reasonably well together, although there is no real spark between them, and there simply had to be for the movie to work.
The film moves fairly slowly, with too much time spent in a weighty mid-section of car chases and slapstick before the big action set piece finale. Although there are occasional laughs, much of the comedy rests on the shoulders of drug dealing middle-man Red (Danny R. McBride) whose run of injuries is supposed to lighten proceedings and yet his singular lack of appeal makes this fall flat.
Fans will laugh and non-fans won’t bother seeing it, while the scant few in between will probably decide for themselves rather than listen to critics. If watched at all this is perhaps best left for dvd.Rating: