Seth Rogen, James Franco and Danny McBride Take the Pineapple Express;
Seth Rogen, James Franco and Danny R. McBride take the Pineapple Express

On first viewing, the true measure of a comedy is how much it makes you laugh. If you laugh enough, you’re able to forget whatever other flaws it might have. If the laughs stop however, the movie underneath better deliver in some other way or else it’s in trouble.

In the case of Pineapple Express, the comedy came easily for the first 35 minutes, but then it slowly ran out of gas. By the end, it was just an action movie that wasn’t well mounted enough to be exciting or over-the-top enough to be funny. It’s not a bad movie. In fact, as long as the laughs keep coming, it’s an entertaining one, but once they dry up the rest isn’t very good.

After an amusing but pointless black and white pre-credit sequence with Bill Hader as an army corporal involved in testing the effects of marijuana in 1937, we jump forward to the present where we’re introduced to Seth Rogen as Dale Denton, a likeable, pot-smoking process server. James Franco is Saul Silver, Dale’s permanently stoned dealer. Saul turns Dale on to a unique strain of pot known as Pineapple Express. Unfortunately, when Dale witnesses Saul’s supplier (Gary Cole) and a crooked cop (Rosie Perez) committing a murder, he flees the scene leaving a joint behind. Since the strain is so rare (“It’s almost a shame to smoke it. It’s like killing a unicorn”), Cole easily traces it back to Saul and Dale and the chase begins.

The two stoners panic, they sleep in the woods, they get in an amusing car chase, they argue, they’re stalked by Cole’s goons, the split up, they’re beaten, and so on. By this time, the laughs have become sporadic and eventually the likeable cast is scraping the bowl for comedy resin. There are some amusing set pieces along the way but there is little comic momentum. Ultimately, the paper-thin plot and hastily sketched characters begin to show through. The end comes with a bang, but not of the comic variety.

Rogen and Franco are both likeable, Franco especially shows an unexpected knack for comedy, but their characters don’t really go anywhere. This is probably by design, but it doesn’t make for a very interesting movie.

Star on the rise Danny McBride turns in a funny performance as an untrustworthy yet seemingly invincible friend, but Cole and Perez and the rest of the supporting cast are largely wasted.

Dale also has a pretty high school aged girlfriend played by Amber Heard. She mainly exists to show how stunted Dale is, to provide an amusing dinner confrontation with her parents and then to be endangered by Cole and Perez before disappearing altogether.

Am I judging a simple comedy too harshly? Perhaps, but if it had been funnier for longer, I wouldn’t have to. It’s fair to say that comedy is more subjective than other genres and the audience of mostly high school kids and 20-somethings I saw it with enjoyed themselves. Fans of Rogen and/or Franco especially will probably find a lot to like here.

Even so, while Pineapple Express is not a terrible movie by any measure, it doesn’t have the makings of a classic either. In time, I think its charms will wear off like a pot haze and even its current admirers will forget about it when the next thing comes along.

Pineapple Express. USA 2008. Directed by David Gordon Green. Written by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen. Screen story by Judd Apatow, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen. Cinematography by Tim Orr. Music composed by Graeme Revell. Edited by Craig Alpert. Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco, Gary Cole, Rosie Perez, Danny R. McBride, Amber Heard, Ed Begley, Jr., Nora Dunn, Bobby Lee and James Remar. 1 hour 52 minutes. MPAA rated R for pervasive language, drug use, sexual references and violence. 3 stars (out of 5)

34 Responses to “Review: Pineapple Express (2008) ***”

  1. And therein lies the crux of a contemporary comedy, which can easily be irrational and insultingly nonsensical, so long as it makes you laugh. Case in point in large measure: BORAT. But the real question that comes up of reading this fine and apt “short and sweet assessment is whether 35 minutes of non-stop laughter warrants one buying a ticket. In these days, when little is really funny, it is admittedly a tempting proposition.

  2. I wouldn’t go out of my way and I’d try not to pay full price, but this isn’t a bad time at the movies.

    Personally, I’d rather see Man on Wire again.

  3. Indeed, Craig, I have apparently firmed up plans to see MAN ON WIRE again tomorrow night with a couple who haven’t seen it yet!

  4. I see the film inspired you in your writing as much as it did me in mine. As in not very. I kind of phoned this review in and didn’t feel guilty in the slightest about it.

    I’d be interested if you saw any flashes of David Gordon Green in the film. I thought I caught snatches, but couldn’t be sure. It’s certainly on the periphery, if it’s there at all. Nothing about Pineapple Express led me to believe that Adam McKay or Greg Mottola couldn’t have done the exact same job.

  5. Yeah, as an Apatow movie, it is what it is. But for Gordon Green, it’s particularly lazy. Mainstream success doesn’t hurt, though. Hopefully this gives him greater opportunity for personal movies down the road.

  6. This wasn’t phoned in, it was sent in via telegraph (I almost typed ‘smoke signal’ but quickly realized that would’ve been a bad pun).

    I actually forgot while I was watching it that David Gordon Green had anything to do with it. So to answer your question, no.

    I’m with Ari in that I hope this gives him some freedom to do more indie things in the future.

  7. I guess I’ll wait ’til this is a $2 midnight movie — if I can wait that long to see what Franco has done with his character.

  8. “There are some amusing set pieces along the way but there is little comic momentum. Ultimately, the paper-thin plot and hastily sketched characters begin to show through.”

    Nailed it!

    I think the leapfrogging in the woods was one of the lowest points.

    Speaking of Danny McBride being awesome – holy crap, against all odds and rational reason, I loved Tropic Thunder in almost every way last night. Don’t ask me to defend it, please. Third time must have been the charm after Step and Pineapple. It’s extremely raunchy, it’s stupid, it’s pointless. It also has some of the best characters of the summer, and it features some of the best production design this side of TDK.

    This is happening. I’m raving about Tropic Thunder.

    Who knows, I could see it again tonight and hate it. But last night, for some reason I haven’t yet fully understood, it fired on all cylinders for me. Best end credits of any movie this year. Period.

    High marks for RDJ, McBride, and – yes – Tom Cruise.

  9. I’m deeply saddened to hear that it’s difficult to find David Gordon Green in this film. Considering the subject matter, I thought he could have shown up some in it. Then again, I knew with Apatow running the show from behind the stage, that this would be “different” from Green’s previous work.

  10. Daniel, Tropic Thunder is the one stupid comedy whose trailers and ads have put a dumb grin on my face. It looks like a lot of stupid fun, and your enthusiasm has made me quite happy. Thank you!

  11. Good news about Tropic Thunder Daniel. I’ve had a good feeling about that one for a while. Raunchy and stupid is great as long as it brings the funny.

  12. My expectations were exceeded, for sure. I don’t want to tell you to get even more excited for it, but I think people will be surprised that they’re laughing as much as they are for as long as they are.

    By the way, this is ALMOST A SPOILER – Simple Jack is heavily featured. Starts out a little awkward and the audience doesn’t know whether to laugh or not, but by the end it’s on fire, just like the rest of it.

    TT is going to generate the most buzz/quotes/jokes/reviews of any movie this summer outside of TDK. I kinda want to see it again, like now.

  13. I’m sure it’s a very good review, Craig, but I only could skim through it. I’ll be seeing this eventually, and after I do, I’ll obviously have more to say (and read).

  14. I think I already know the context of Simple Jack, I caught a fragment of a review somewhere. Too bad, it would’ve been a nice surprise.
    I was sold on the movie as soon as I saw Downey Jr in the first trailer.
    So yeah, I’ve got my ticket for midnight Thursday.

    Alexander. This will not go down in the LiC annals of good reviews, but I don’t think I embarrassed myself.

  15. Midnight?!? Why not the Arclight Friday night?

  16. er…I wanted to see it as soon as possible? seemed like a good movie to see at midnight with a raucous crowd?

  17. No, no, no problem with it. Just seemed like you had a routine going. Actually come to think of it, isn’t Tropic Thunder actually coming out on Wednesday? It’s this weird new Wednesday opening thing.


    Alright I know this is a PE thread, but one last thing about TT and then I’ll shut up and let everyone else enjoy it. Maybe. Having just seen the trailer for the first time, I can say the funniest parts are NOT in the trailer, and that’s always a good sign…

  18. Yes, that’s right. Thank you for reminding me. It’s Tuesday at midnight.

    I’ll be worthless the rest of the week, but that’s ok.

    That’s a good sign about the trailer. So often with comedies…well you know how it goes.

  19. Ugh. Between this film and Beer For My Horses, which I also foolishly agreed to write about, my critic energy has been sapped. I need a good jolt of real cinematic beauty/fun/joy. I’m seeing Henry Poole is Here and Vicky Christina Barcelona next week, so here’s hoping I don’t get more duds like this one.

  20. Isn’t it amazing how a couple of crappy movies can take the wind out of your sails? I have highish hopes for VCB.

  21. I don’t know. I liked it. We need to buy you a new funny bone, Craig. The big thing that I like is that the film is fully committed to being what it is without any satirical self-consciousness. Unlike Hot Fuzz. Or a certain film that’s coming out next week.

  22. I’m always in a bad mood after I see a bad film. I was pissed for hours after seeing BRIDESHEAD REVISITED the other night…more so than usual because the characters made me so angry. I barely talked the whole way home…I’m pretty good company until I see a movie I hate.

    I really enjoyed PINEAPPLE EXPRESS though. Went in with low expectations and had a blast.

  23. I only see this later this month, if I make it to the press screening…it only opens in October here. Woop

  24. Welcome back, Nick!

    KB, you might be right. I’m hoping to love TT, though it sounds like you’re cool on it.

    Matthew, I didn’t care for Brideshead either. I didn’t hate it like you, but it all seemed very very pointless.

  25. ‘the likeable cast is scraping the bowl for comedy resin’

    i loved that segment… :)

  26. The weird thing is I didn’t hate it as a film…the film was just mediocre. It was the characters and where I felt the movie was pushing us that I hated.

  27. I agree with you Craig, and with Matthew, but I remain a big fan of the 550 minute plus BBC min-series, from which this Cliff’s note version emanated.

  28. Sam, stop it. If you keep hyping the BBC version I may actually have to go watch it. :-P ;-)

  29. LOL Matthew!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  30. I’d rented the first disc of the mini, held onto it for a week, never felt like watching it, returned it. I’ll watch it one of these days. Or maybe I’ll read the book!

  31. I just saw this, and found it so-so.

  32. You guys are retarded.
    Your grown men and women!
    Im only 17 and Im searching the net and I find this.
    Do you guys not have jobs?

    Bashing a movie is dumb and a waste of time.
    Your critisicm wont change the movie
    so shut the fuck up.

    Its a movie!
    Dont like it?
    Dont see it.

    Get a fucking life.

  33. Thanks for the probing insight, Jennifer.

    One question though, doesn’t someone have to see a movie before knowing they don’t like it?

    I’m relieved to know the future of the world is in good hands.

  34. It’s a blog thread!
    Don’t like it?
    Don’t read it!

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