Sony // 2008 // 112 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // January 19th, 2009
Put this in your pipe and smoke it!
Whether we like it or not, the stoner comedy has become a genre. Over 30 years ago, Up In Smoke lit up the joint and since then it has been burned to death in such unfunny mishmashes as Half-Baked, How High, and Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle. If you've seen one stoner movie, you've seen them all. Once you see a character give an unusual, high-larious reaction to weed, that's the one you will remember. For me, it was Poindexter's ten-second delay in Revenge Of The Nerds.
The latest offering of cinematic reefer madness is Pineapple Express. A modest success in theaters (although I'm willing to bet the concessions made bigger profits than the studio...there's a first!), Sony delivers the film in several versions, with the unrated standard edition up for scrutiny. Is the film worth a toke, or is it just another roach to be flung out the window?
Slacker Dale Denton (Seth Rogen, Knocked Up) appears to be living the high life. Sure, he may hate his job, but he's got a hot, underage girlfriend and some bodacious weed being supplied by his mellow, superdude dealer Saul Silver (James Franco, the Spider-Man trilogy). However, when Dale witnesses a murder perpetuated by violent thug Ted Jones (Gary Cole, Office Space) after burning some of the title herb, he takes it on the run with Saul. Along the way, they must deal with shady supplier Red (Danny McBride, Tropic Thunder), two of Jones's henchmen, and a crooked cop named Carol (Rosie Perez, It Could Happen To You).
I saw Pineapple Express in the theater. In a few words, I was amused but only sometimes got into the crazy antics on display in this descent into pot and paranoia. However, it was light years better than previous stoner movies, with gleeful performances by its eclectic cast and more than enough memorable mayhem on display. Pineapple Express is surely not without laughs, and screenwriters Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg ensure you will have a good, if not great, time.
In recent years, Judd Apatow has become the king of comedy. With Pineapple Express, he ensures the film will not make the same mistake as its dopey cousins. Apatow's much smarter than Tamra Davis and Danny Leiner, in the way he creates likable characters and crafting/complicating a story which moves along at a speedy pace, albeit with a few hiccups. Plus, he found a dream team with anti-hero Rogen, dealer Franco, and double-crosser McBride, who all seem to be having a blast playing these baked buddies with brains to fry. The supporting cast is terrific as well, with Perez given her best role in years, Cole hilariously profane in his dirty dealings, and you have Ed Begley, Jr. -- you can never go wrong with him.
Presented in 2.40:1 Anamorphic widescreen, Sony has again delivered a fine DVD. The picture isn't spectacular, mind you, but Rogen's maize jacket and Franco's shark shirt (a tip of the hat to John Dunn's fun costumes) come through clear as you would hope amid all the smoke. Colors are fairly bright and contrast is reasonably sharp, with some instances of grain keeping it from perfection. Things are equally kosher on the audio side, with the 5.1 tracks in English and French coming through with flying colors. Graeme Revill's infectious score is given a respectful boost in all speakers. English and French subtitles are provided as well.
Like the other DVD editions, this one boasts two cuts: The theatrical (clocking in at 112 minutes) and the Unrated (with five additional minutes). The extra footage doesn't have much buzz and it's a mystery as to why three alternate scenes are available in the bonus content when they could have been easily added as well. As for the commentary, it's a reasonably entertaining affair which only scratches the surface of the film's production, in lieu of a lot of goofing around. All of the film's principal stars, producers, and director are on hand to chat. Thankfully, they avoid overlapping each other as much as possible.
So why does Pineapple Express stop short of being the alpha and omega of stoner comedies? The film switches back and forth, often without warning, between comedy and action. This harsh violence simply doesn't mix well with cannabis comedy, resulting in an uneven adventure which is very hit-and-miss. Getting an ashtray thrown in the face is one thing, but not getting paralyzed after getting smashed by a door and falling on a kitchen sink, ripping it off the wall in the process, was way too much to accept. Of course, it may be part of some bibbity-bobbity-boo hallucination, with all these experiences happening in the character's heads. However, even after viewing it from the alternative perspective, Pineapple Express still fumbles in a blaze of blunts.
Regardless of how you interpret the plot aesthetics, even Cheech & Chong
did right by keeping their pot-fueled flicks under 90 minutes long. Pineapple
Express is overly extended by at least a half-hour, with an entire subplot
about Dale's high school girlfriend (Amber Heard, Alpha Dog) both wanton
and worthless. Every single time Dale questioned his love for her and proclaimed
how much he missed her, it made me scream, "Get on with it!" Add to that a
pointless prologue set in 1937 (although it was great to see the old
Columbia logo from the '60s), and a gun-toting climax which is all flash and no
spontaneity, and you have a picture which tokes way too much on excess. The
hilarious breakfast scene at the end is what saves the film, but why take nearly
two hours to get there?
I still recommend Pineapple Express for the fact it's one of the better stoner movies released since the premiere of the genre's granddaddy, Up In Smoke. It could have been a lot worse. Jim Bruer could have shown up somewhere along the way.
The film and its star trio are found not guilty, with Sony free to go thanks
to a smokin' DVD presentation.
Review content copyright © 2009 Christopher Kulik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Extended/Alternate Scenes
* Gag Reel