Seth Rogen (right) could get some acting tips from James Franco.
PINEAPPLE EXPRESS directed by David Gordon Green, written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg from a story by Judd Apatow, Rogen and Goldberg, with Rogen, James Franco, Gary Cole, Craig Robinson, Kevin Corrigan, Danny McBride and Rosie Perez. A Sony Pictures release. 111 minutes. Now playing. For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN
Lazy and self-indulgent Pineapple Express doles out the stupidity
Pineapple Express takes all the goodwill and charm Seth Rogen has built up over the last few years - breaking out in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, starring in Knocked Up, writing Superbad, and so forth - rolls it up, sets it on fire and stubs it out in your eye. It's a lazy, self-indulgent action comedy aimed directly at stoned teenagers who'll laugh at anything, and it respects them about as much as a guy buying a dime bag respects his dealer.
As it happens, that particular relationship - chatty, convivial and constantly looking at the door, eager to get going and smoke up in peace - is at the heart of Pineapple Express, which casts Rogen as Dale Denton, a process server, and James Franco as Saul Silver, his perpetually stoned supplier.
When Dale, having just puffed up on Saul's latest exclusive weed, witnesses a local heavy (Gary Cole) execute a competitor, he and Saul find themselves in the middle of an old-school drug war and have to dodge a pair of contract killers (Kevin Corrigan and Craig Robinson) while devising a way out of the mess.
The story goes that Apatow, Rogen and Rogen's writing partner Evan Goldberg came up with the Pineapple Express concept while watching True Romance and becoming fascinated with the oblivious stoner roommate played by Brad Pitt. How would the movie have turned out if Pitt had been the hero rather than just a bystander?
Pineapple Express is their feature-length answer. And, like most of the ideas people have when high, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense the next day.
Borrowing its structure (and its fairly brutal violence) from mid-budget 1980s actioners like Cobra, Above The Law and Raw Deal, it's a vehicle for Rogen's disbelieving-motormouth shtick, which is pretty much the same here as it was in Superbad, Knocked Up and everything else. Something happens; Rogen reacts in surprise and says a bunch of stuff really fast; cut to co-star reaction shot.
Fortunately, that co-star is usually James Franco, and he's hysterical. Having demonstrated some sharp comic chops in Spider-Man 3 (believe me, he knew exactly what he was doing as the "reformed" Harry Osborn), he steals every moment in Pineapple Express so casually as the befuddled Saul that you barely notice him doing it. It's a fully realized turn, but the dude's working in a void.
It's not that Rogen can't be entertaining; the guy comes up with solid laughs here and there. But he clearly needs a director who's capable of separating the gold from the dross in the editing room, and David Gordon Green is not that director.
After a brilliant start as an indie artist with George Washington and All The Real Girls, Green flamed out spectacularly with the laughable Southern Gothic entry Undertow and stumbled further with the badly received Snow Angels.
Now, he's whoring himself out to the studio machine and dragging his talented cinematographer, Tim Orr, along with him. I can't blame the guy for taking an easy cheque, but he should have delivered something competent.