As with last year’s Superbad, male bonding lies at the heart of the latest Judd Apatow production which also comes from the screenwriting team of Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen. After playing one of the cops in Superbad and starring in Knocked Up, Rogen returns to play Dale Denton, a permanently-baked legal process-server whose friendly neighbourhood weed-dealer, Saul Silver (James Franco) sells him a rare strain of cannabis known as Pineapple Express. When Denton accidentally leaves a half-smoked joint at the scene of gangland murder, Denton and Silver are forced to go on the run from the police and criminals alike.
The Pineapple Express project was created by Apatow after revisiting Tony Scott’s True Romance, with Silver’s hippy-Jesus character clearly fashioned after Floyd, Brad Pitt’s stoner comic relief. From this inspiration, Apatow encouraged Rogen and Goldberg to create a ‘drug-buddy’ comedy that’s pitched somewhere between Cheech and Chong and Laurel and Hardy.
Directed by the usually sensitive David Gordon Green (George Washington, All the Pretty Girls, Undertow), Pineapple Express is a loose, freewheeling and highly enjoyable action comedy that boasts a decidedly 1980s attitude, right down to the Huey Lewis and the News closing song. As with Superbad, the narrative has the quality of a rambling, somewhat exaggerated shaggy-dog story, and the theme of friendship is developed in a similar plotline about a strained relationship which comes close to extinction after an unspeakable truth is said’ (‘I guess the monkey is finally out of the bottle’ admits Franco’s addled stoner ‘That’s the thing about Pandora, she won’t go back in the box’).
While not quite as filthily sidesplitting as Superbad, Pineapple Express raises plenty of smiles, despite a few bum notes ‐ scenes involving Dale’s awkward romance with a high-school girl and one in which our heroes sell drugs in a children’s playground both seem contrived and too self-conscious in their desire to shock ‐ yet both strands pay off in deliriously funny set pieces, one in which Denton attempts to enjoy a calm dinner with his girlfriend’s parents while fending off the attentions of the drug-dealing community, and a riotous sequence in which Saul clumsily steals a police car to rescue his friend. (Eddie Harrison)
General release from Fri 12 Sep.