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Pineapple Express: Just Say Yes

August 6, 2008

By Michael Smith, Tulsa World, Okla.

Aug. 6–So autobiographical were the hormones and humor of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s teen characters in “Superbad” that the men simply had to name them Seth and Evan.

With the pals’ follow-up, “Pineapple Express,” one has to wonder how often the boys used to pretend they were a certain bong-powered comedy film team and fought over this question: Who gets to be Cheech, and who gets to be Chong?

Their story is still one of male bonding and the power of best friends forever overcoming life’s tribulations. It’s just that this time around, the protagonists are a boy and his drug dealer.

Rogen (“Knocked Up”) portrays the latest cinematic model of a man who won’t grow up. A 30ish slob whose emotional growth has long been stunted, he dates a high school girl.

His job pays the bills, but as a process server, each legal document handed out is greeted with a “Thanks, jerk.” That’s when people are being nice to Dale Denton.

Dale (Rogen) escapes the world and its daily disappointments through his haze of marijuana consumption, which is considerable, meaning he needs a reliable supplier for his illegal activity. Saul Silver (James Franco) is the man, and he’s got something special for his best customer.

“Pineapple

Express” is apparently a particularly potent pot product (as evidenced in a giddy prologue to the film, depicting a 1950s-era U.S. Army underground testing facility with Tulsa native Bill Hader playing a soldier who tries out the wacky weed to ridiculous results).

The pot is so rare that when Dale witnesses a rogue police officer (Rosie Perez) and a drug kingpin (Gary Cole) commit a murder and then drops his doobie in his haste to escape, the bad guys know its brand immediately and that Saul is the salesman.

From this point the comedy is that of reefer madness, with a guy in a suit and a drug dealer in pajamas on the run from cops and killers. The action is frenzied and funny and only a slight variation on the “Superbad” subplots of McLovin and his police friends opposite Seth and Evan’s travails in securing booze for a party.

Familiarity is perhaps the biggest liability here, in a film that’s laugh-out-loud funny, consistently crude and excellently produced, another off the Judd Apatow assembly line of comedy hits (“The 40-year-old Virgin,”"Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and more).

I don’t want these talents to make the same film again and again with only slight changes; I don’t want them to be safe, as silly as that may sound in a film in which the heroes toke their way to glory.

There are some odd tangents and characters that don’t work, and part of the film’s comedy is derived from continuity issues (a guy who had a cut lip one minute seems to have already healed) that are so numerous they may be intentional.

But there’s no denying the chronically twisted sight gags, the clumsy fight scenes that are so choreographed that they look gloriously un-choreographed and brutal, or the performance of Franco, beautifully playing against type and breaking beyond the pretty-boy role of Harry, best friend to Peter Parker in the “Spider-Man” series.

Affecting a donkey laugh and doper sensibilities in conversations that go nowhere (“Man, that guy is a lingerer. I hate lingerers. They linger.”), Franco believably becomes the stoner dude at the high school party that everybody laughs at for his loopy stream of consciousness.

Or his strange inventions, like a three-pronged bong that offers a trifecta of pot-smoking power. It is, as Saul states, the apex of the cortex of joint engineering.

Listen up, kids: Just say no to drugs. Say yes to “Pineapple Express” for a natural comedy high.

PINEAPPLE EXPRESS

Stars: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride, Gary Cole

Theaters: Promenade, Cinemark Tulsa, Starworld 20, RiverWalk, Owasso, Broken Arrow, Sand Springs

Running time: 1 hour, 51 minutes

Rated: R (pervasive language, drug use, sexual references and violence)

Quality: ***(on a scale of zero to four stars)

Michael Smith 581-8479 michael.smith@tulsaworld.com

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