Sony // 2008 // 112 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // January 6th, 2009
Put this in your pipe and smoke it.
"It's for medicinal purposes? I have anorexia, and it helps my appetite."
Dale Denton (Seth Rogan, Knocked Up) is a process server who has very little ambition. He's dating an 18-year-old high school senior, and spends his days listening to talk radio and smoking weed. His pot dealer is a friendly fellow named Saul (James Franco, Annapolis). Dale is one of Saul's favorite customers, and thus is entitled to receive top-of-the-line product. One day, Saul informs Dale that he has something miraculous in stock: "Pineapple Express." Dale is enthralled with this remarkable new weed, and takes some with him while waiting to serve his latest assignment. Unfortunately for Dale, the assignment is a tough thug named Ted (Gary Cole, A Simple Plan), who just so happens to be a very dangerous guy. Dale unintentionally witnesses a murder, and suddenly he and Saul are forced to run for their lives. Along for the ride are ninjas, an evil police officer (Rosie Perez), a double-crossing pal (Danny McBride, Tropic Thunder), and a whole lot of Pineapple Express.
The first time I saw Pineapple Express, I was reasonably pleased. The film made me laugh, but I more or less dismissed the movie as just another pretty entertaining flick from the Judd Apatow factory. However, something unusual happened in the months that followed: I couldn't get the movie out of my head. In the middle of the day, I would suddenly start chuckling when remembering a line of dialogue or a particularly entertaining moment from the film. Slowly but surely, I couldn't help but wonder whether my initial first impression had been a little off. Was it possible that Pineapple Express was not merely another fun Apatow comedy, but in fact a glorious overdose of super-awesome sweetness?
Yeah, pretty much. This movie is a lot of fun, and it just gets better with each hit. Yes, Pineapple Express is wildly over-the-top and completely lacking in moral soundness (you have to admit it; this is a film in which our heroes sell drugs to kids). Even so, I have no choice but to admire a comedy that so shamelessly and skillfully promotes the virtues of its own existence. The film begins as the best stoner comedy since The Big Lebowski, and then proceeds to turn into the most absurdly entertaining crime/action/gangster movie since, oh, The Big Lebowski. Bizarre adventures have been a staple of the stoner comedy genre -- just look at the Cheech and Chong films, Dude, Where's My Car? and Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. Even by the standards of the genre, Pineapple Express is outlandish. Most stoner movies are designed to seem particularly awesome for viewers who are high. Some perceptive critics have noted that Pineapple Express seems particularly awesome because its characters are high.
The theory is that the vast majority of what happens in Pineapple Express never actually happens. Dale meets up with Saul, they smoke some Pineapple Express together, and slowly but surely the craziest adventure of their life forms in their brains. The next morning, the guys go out for pancakes and recount the glories of their adventures to each other, permanently cementing the memories that might otherwise just fade into oblivion. Pineapple Express is as good on its own as inferior stoner movies might be if you watched them when you were high. Don't worry? if you want to believe it's all real, there's nothing in the movie that specifically contradicts that idea. Even so, there are clues scattered everywhere here that suggest the pipe dream theory is correct. There are numerous scenes in which characters seem to be vaguely feeling their way through the information they have, as if they're inventing the details. In addition, almost all of the primary players are set up within the pre-hallucinatory moments. We meet Dale's girlfriend, hear about her family, learn that Ted is the guy that Dale is supposed to serve, and are told a little bit about Red. How about the ninjas? Blame it on the weed.
Whichever way you want to slice it, you'll probably enjoy the film. The screenplay by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg is filled with terrific dialogue, and the actors help create very memorable characters. After a string of terribly dull acting turns, James Franco succeeds with flying colors as the carefree drug dealer Saul. He quietly swerves through the plot to great comic effect, leaving Seth Rogen to provide a different sort of amusement as the constantly-frustrated straight man (if anyone in this movie can really be called a straight man). The whole flick is nearly stolen by Danny McBride, who proves here that he is a comic force to be reckoned with. No character in this movie makes me laugh as consistently as Red, who somehow manages to make dirty double-crossing on a horrific scale seem adorable. Props should also go out to Gary Cole as the slick villain and Craig Robinson as a hit man. Everything is held together nicely by director David Gordon Green, who joins the ever-increasing ranks of talented art house directors shifting into the big-budget mainstream. Green adds a layer of subtlety to this externally broad film that really does increase the repeat viewing value.
The hi-def transfer is a strong one, even if this isn't exactly a visually stunning film. Facial detail is superb, and background detail is generally solid. Flesh tones are accurate, and the overall image is just a hair short of being a knockout. It's really good, but simply lacks the "wow" factor of the best hi-def transfers. I'm slightly disappointed by the black level here, which is somewhat lacking in depth at times. Blacks seem deep enough during a few scenes, but the nighttime scenes suffer. Audio is solid here, and the big shootout scene towards the end rocks as much as anything you'd hear in a full-blown action flick. All of the audio elements are well-distributed throughout, and there's a respectably moderate amount of subwoofer action. I was also impressed with how crisp and clean the chaotic scenes sound.
This Blu-ray disc is packed with the same generous set of supplemental features that grace the 2-disc DVD. However, there is one considerable bonus here. This disc gives viewers the opportunity to check out both the 112-minute theatrical version and the 117-minute unrated version. Oh, and you also get a digital copy of the film, if that sort of thing floats your boat. Plus, the disc is equipped with BD Live. Okay, let's move along. First up is a commentary track with a wide variety of participants: David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, James Franco, Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, and Ed Begley, Jr. As you might expect, it's a very fun track with lots of goofing around and only a minimal amount of nuts-and-bolts discussion. Still, there are lots of fun tidbits to learn here. A taste: apparently, Brad Pitt's role in True Romance served as the inspiration for the entire screenplay. Next, we get three minutes of deleted scenes. These are brief, but funny. This is followed by some alternate/extended versions of a few scenes.
A whole bunch of featurettes are included here. "The Making of the Pineapple Express" (21 minutes) is your standard making-of piece, but with a good deal more insight than the usual EPK sort of thing. "The Action of Pineapple Express" (12 minutes) discusses the challenges of filming some of the film's big action set pieces. "Phone Booth" (6 minutes) offers some footage Judd Apatow playing the role of Angie. "Line-o-Rama" (3 minutes) includes footage of the actors doing silly alternate versions of their lines, while "Direct-o-Rama" (4 minutes) features Green making entertainingly unusual demands of the actors. The "Gag Reel" (5 minutes) is funnier than such things usually are, while "Item 9" (4 minutes) is a somewhat funny companion piece to the film's opening black-and-white sequence. Hey, is that Justin Long? "Saul's Apartment" (13 minutes) offers a few brand-new improvisational scenes with Franco, McBride, and a couple of guest stars. "Raw Footage" gives us completely uncut versions of a few scenes, while "Begley's Best" tells us about a new non-toxic cleaning product. "Red and Jessica's Guide to Marriage" (4 minutes) is a hilarious training video offering tips on how to have a successful marriage. "Injury Report" (5 minutes) is a thorough document of the numerous little injuries that occurred over the course of filming, and "Stuntmaster Ken" (3 minutes) is brief look at the work of actor/stunt coordinator Ken Jeong. Wow, even more? 5 minutes of rehearsal footage, a table read, a comic-con panel, and the red band trailer. Phew! All of this stuff is lightweight, but the high level of original sketch comedy created for the DVD adds a lot of value.
Unfortunately, the female characters in the film are more or less reduced to screeching stereotypes. Obviously, this is a movie told from the POV of a few rather self-absorbed guys, but that's not a particularly good excuse.
An inventive comedy/action flick, a solid transfer and a terrific batch of supplements join forces to make this Blu-ray disc an easy recommendation. Feel free to inhale.
Review content copyright © 2009 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Gag Reel
* Deleted/Alternate/Extended Scenes
* Raw Footage
* Rehearsal Footage
* Comic-Con Footage
* Table Read
* Assorted Goodies
* Digital Copy
* Cinema Verdict Review