The strength of films produced by Judd Apatow, like Superbad and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, is how he manages to give the characters heart and warmth in the midst of wild adventures and mishaps. Sadly, Pineapple Express skils any real care for the characters and settles for being a very typical stoner comedy.
Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) is happily going nowhere. He works as a process server, delivering subpoenas to people and smoking a lot of weed while driving around. He's dating Angie (Amber Heard), a high school senior. And his best buddy is his pot supplier Saul (James Franco, as far from his deadly serious role in the Spider-Man movies as possible), a laid-back dude content to deal pot. Saul likes Dale so much, he sets him up with the exclusive marijuana type Pineapple Express, a rare and potent strain of weed.
At Dale's next job, he sees a man shot and killed by mobster Ted (Gary Cole) and uniformed officer Carol (Rosie Perez). Dale does such a poor job bouncing his car between two parked cars while "escaping" that they both get a good look at him. And from the joint of Pineapple Express Dale dropped while fleeing, they know Saul is involved too.
The rest of the movie is mostly Dale and Saul bonding (and smokin') while pursued by hired killers Budlofsky (Kevin Corrigan) and Matheson (Craig Robinson). There's also Red (Danny R. McBride), a friend of Saul's who is as ready to swear loyalty to the two fugitives as to give them up to their pursuers. And while Dale and Saul are just trying to stay alive, they wind up getting in the middle of a mob war between Ted and his Asian competitors.
If this sounds like a plot from a Cheech and Chong movie, it might as well be. All the characters in Pineapple Express are very one dimensional: the evil bad guy, the laid-back stoner, the angry cop, etc. There are some laughs in the interplay between Rogen and Franco, but they're not delivered enough to make this a well-sustained comedy. If the sight of two grown men smoking massive amounts of weed tickles your funnybone, Pineapple Express is for you. If not, it's an uneven comedy. It's hard to believe Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen helped write such a mediocre comedy.
Overall grade: C-
Reviewed by James Lynch