Danny Westhorpe, 23, Newcastle Upon Tyne.

• Film Reviews » Pineapple Express

“Put this in your pipe and smoke it.”

When it comes to comedy there are two main routes films generally go down. Smart humour or crude humour. Smart humour appeals to those intelligent enough to understand it while crude humour appeals to teenage boys and adults looking to recapture their youth. Pineapple Express hits the balance between both just right and director David Gordon Green has created a comedy that should appeal to all but the up-tightest of individuals.

Falling smack bang in the middle of the “stoner comedy” sub-genre, Pineapple Express does everything your average stoner movie does. It has a quest between some friends, a few attractive women here and there, and of course, bong hit after bong hit. While stoner films as a whole generally have a limited target audience, Pineapple Express breaks the mould a little, offering humour that both the smokers and the straight-edge alike can enjoy. Add in two of the biggest rising stars in the acting world today, and Pineapple Express isn’t just the best stoner comedy out there, it’s probably one of the best comedies in recent times.

Seth Rogen stars as Dale Denton, a care free stoner with a good job, cool girlfriend and seemingly no worries in the world. His dealer Saul (James Franco) is similarly laid back and spends his days selling pot and watching TV. But when Denton witnesses’ a brutal execution, the pair become embezzled in a triad turf war with no one quite sure who’s side their on. Scared stiff and out of their depth, the pair make a run for it and try and figure out what to do. Eventually they come to the only possible conclusion, it’s time to stop running and take the fight to them.

Seth Rogen and James Franco have great chemistry together and pull off the typical stoner role perfectly.
Amber Heard is the blonde eye candy that stoner movies rely on so heavily.

The casting is a surprise, but a welcome one. While Seth Rogen was tailored for this role, many might have been surprised to see James Franco in such a slapstick comedy. After serious roles in the Spider-Man trilogy, James Dean and Annapolis, comedy seemed like a bit of a stretch. The boy came good though, putting in a top performance and looking for all the world like a true stoner through and through.

The support cast aren’t too shabby either, with solid performances from Danny McBride (Red), Kevin Corrigan (Budlofsky), Gary Cole (Ted Jones), Amber Heard (Angie) and Rosie Perez (Officer Brazier). Craig Robinson is the one to watch out for though. He plays henchman Matheson and lights up the screen in every scene he’s in. His previous career in stand-up comedy probably helped somewhat, as he doesn’t just deliver his lines with perfect comedy timing, but puts great effort into his body language and facial expressions too. Alongside the gifted Rogen and Franco, it would have been easy for him to get lost in the background, but Robinson holds his own and gives the two bigger stars a real run for their money.

The camerawork is clever and it never stays too static for long. The action can be fast at times and there are some nice angles every now and then. But in fairness this was never going to be a film that was dissected for its bold lighting techniques or state of the art CGI. It’s more substance than style (pun intended).

Although each scene is good in its own right, it’s moments rather than specific sections that keep the laughter flowing. Rogen and Franco play off each well, and it’s easy to see the pair are good friends in real life. Any scene that shows the two in some kind of hurry is sure to have you cracking a smile. Whether it be quickly gathering supplies in Saul’s house or running from a mysterious shadow in the woods, the duo have mastered the ability to cause just enough chaos for it to be realistic and plausible, while funny at the same time.

One scene that does deserve a mention is the two on one fight that takes place at Red’s apartment. Rather than go for over the top violence for the sake of it, the trio capture the exact look and feel of how three ordinary men would brawl if under the influence of an illicit substance. Punches and kicks that a mixed martial art champion would be proud of are sensibly ignored, and ineffective chops and groin shots are the chosen method of force. It was a smart move from the director, who could have easily opted for all out warfare for the sake of entertainment. Instead the end product is much better. Humour combines with weak violence to create the standout scene of the movie.

The score is just what you’d expect from a stoner flick – upbeat, catch tunes from a few decades ago that make you feel just a little nostalgic. Tracks from Eddy Grant, Cypress Hill, Public Enemy and Bell Biv DeVoe all feature, but it’s Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant that really sets the tone of the film. Used in full during the opening sequence, the sun shines bright as Dale drives around in his 1987 Cadillac Brougham. With one hand on the wheel and the other holding a joint, Electric Avenue blares from the radio and you know the type of movie you’re in for. A lot of laughter, a few pop culture references and an easy-to-watch, feel good film.

Craig Robinson and Gary Cole put in solid performances with Robinson in particular often stealing the lime light.
"It's like the rarest. It's almost a shame to smoke it. It's like killing a unicorn. With like a bomb."

Producer Judd Apatow has set the bar pretty high for himself. His credits include Anchorman, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad and Step Brothers, so Pineapple Express was always going to have a lot to live up to. In many ways it does, but there are a few points that drag it down a notch or two. The problem with stoner movies in general is that they’re often fairly limited in what they can do. You have one main point you need to stick to throughout – cannabis. The average viewer won’t mind a few references, but may get bored if there hearing a weed related joke for the seventeenth time.

The endings also pretty weak. You can see what the film was trying to do – take as shot at just about every other comedy movie ever made - but it doesn’t really work out that way. It feels like you’re left wanting a proper resolution and a few more questions answered, but then the credits start to role and you know the ride is over before you’re ready to get off.

Pineapple Express is a mixed bag - you’ll probably love it or hate it. It’s smarter than a lot of comedies out there, but not so much so that it’s an absolute must see. If you’re a fan of stoner movies it’s a must. If you’re a fan of comedy in general it’s worth a punt. But if you’re a business sector employee with a Ford Fiesta sat on the drive, this might not be the movie for you.

Copyright © Danny Westhorpe, 2015. All rights reserved.
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