Pineapple Express (2008)

It seems that every few months another film written by the Judd Apatow gang surfaces and tries to breathe life into the comedy industry. In the past, any film with the Apatow Productions sticker attached to it has more often than not been a success. Whether taking on a middle aged virgin, two booze seeking best friends, or an accidental pregnancy after a drunken night, Judd Apatow has consistently proven to be a comedic genius that also has a lot of heart. Naturally, given this track record, I was very excited for the release of his most recent film, Pineapple Express. Trailers and commercials did even more to pique my interest. Entering the theater, I was all set to begin enjoying what should have been the funniest film I would see all year. Sadly, it was not. Pineapple Express chronicles the unfortunate tale of frequently stoned process server Dale Denton (Seth Rogen). After witnessing a murder committed by a policewoman (Rosie Perez) and the later identified drug lord Ted Jones (Gary Cole), Dale seeks refuge with the first person he can think of: his drug dealer Saul (James Franco). Ted, who mistakenly identifies Dale as a hitman from a rival Chinese gang, sends his best men to kill the two stoners forcing them to go on the run. With the help of Saul's friend Red (Danny McBride), the pair must fight fire with fire to save their lives, so they may smoke weed another day.

As somebody who does not smoke weed, drink alcohol, or do any kind of drug at all, maybe I missed something while watching Pineapple Express. Perhaps it would have helped to be stoned so that I could enjoy it more. But if a movie requires you to be stoned to fully appreciate it, then it's not that great of a movie. I could only speculate as to how marijuana makes you feel, but I imagine it is a lot like watching this film. When you are doing it (watching the film) you feel great and are having a good time, but once you come down from your high (exit the theater) you don't really remember much of what happened. Normally after watching a comedy with my friends, in the parking lot we will repeat jokes that we liked from the film so that we can renew the experience. Dead silent is the only term I can use to describe the walk out of the theater with my girlfriend. Neither of us could remember a single joke. I even had trouble remembering what the final scene in the movie was. I do recall that when Pineapple Express was funny, it was hysterical. But when it was not funny, it was dead, and there were a lot of points that were devoid of laughter. Judd Apatow's films usually do have a sagging point, but often bounce back by the end. Pineapple Express falls into a pit and spends the rest of the film trying desperately to climb back up from the depths of mediocrity. In the end it succeeded, but the line is very thin.

Aside from being a comedy, Pineapple Express is a heavily violent action film. Executed properly, Pineapple Express had potential to be a terrific summer flick. But the far from mainstream director David Gordon Green could not handle the new world of an absurd action comedy. Since the comedic portion of the film heavily relies on the actors abilities, I can only really comment on Green's ability to stage an over the top brawl. Put simply, he isn't particularly cut out for it. In some cases however, he did show professionalism and a good eye for comedy. In a scene where Saul and Dale steal a police car and are being chased by the corrupt policewoman, Green effectively mixes thrilling action with genuine humor. On the other hand, Green falters at creating an extravagant final showdown. The epic battle between rival drug factions and the stoners is poorly shot and beyond belief in some cases. In a different film like Wanted or Shoot 'Em Up, I forgive unbelievable and physically impossible events. But Pineapple Express was primarily a film grounded in reality for practically the entire duration. In the end, it was reduced to Wile E. Coyote running off the cliff but his feet are still moving. The only difference being those old Wile E. Coyote episodes were pretty funny. Green dropped the comedic ball completely and instead provided a third rate fight sequence with first rate special effects. For a first attempt at a wide release film, Green fell short.
Seth Rogen is a rising force in comedy, breaking through with the hits Knocked Up and Superbad and now has 5 in development credits on, including the leading role in a superhero film entitled The Green Hornet. Personally I am a fan of Rogen, and I hope he continues to be successful in Hollywood. But in Pineapple Express, Rogen is uncharacteristically weak in both his writing of the film and his performance. Sharing a pen with lifelong buddy Evan Goldberg (who he also wrote Superbad with), Rogen doesn't bring the sincerity that has made most of Apatow Productions in the past unique. He also doesn't create a character that is particularly likable. Although Dale is a very funny person, he has a girlfriend that is in high school. What is up with that? That's not funny, that's pedophilia. Actually they say she is 18, so I guess that is supposed to make it better. It still doesn't sit right with me. Aside from the fact that he is an irresponsible stoner and borderline pedophile, Dale is still pretty funny to watch thanks to Rogen. But the ray of light in Pineapple Express is without a doubt James Franco as the permanently stoned Saul Silver. Clad in a headband and pajama bottoms, Franco steals the movie right out from under the feet of the rest of the cast. I haven't been a fan of Franco's past work (especially his role as "the smiling idiot" in Spiderman 3), but Pineapple Express has changed my opinion of the kind of actor he is. He showed a terrific aptitude in creating laughter from every situation. Danny McBride provided intermittent comedy in his supporting role as Red. Once again though, much like Dale's character, Red is a bit of a jerk. By the end of the film he redeems himself by providing my personal favorite line from the film, "You just got killed by a Daewoo Lanos!" It's funnier in context. Gary Cole is a bit of a miscast as the sinister drug lord Ted Jones. I couldn't really get into his performance. He was about as intimidating as a Dachshund.

Pineapple Express isn't terribly long, but at some points you will begin checking your watch to see how much is left. The movie as a whole is a mixed bag that is full of funny performances but a lagging storyline and mostly poorly shot action sequences. If you plan on riding the express, be prepared to have a mild sense of disappointment and also the inability to remember anything you just saw. Although the experience won't stick with you, it gives you just enough fun while you are watching it to earn a mild recommendation from me. My rating (a disappointing 6/10)


  1. Hi,
    Saw your comment in coffee shop. "Because real critics use too many big words". Like it, very true.
    I have just set up a reviews blog too:

    Will check back at your blog soon as I love films too. Have you reviewed The Dark Knight?


  2. Nick,

    I totally agree with you on Pineapple Express. We make a lot of the same points. Here's my review:

  3. Hey Nick,

    I got your message. I think it's great that you are writing and you've set some great goals for yourself. In terms of school, I truly think it's what you make of it. NYU, Syracuse, UCLA, USC, Northwestern and BU have great writing programs. I'm also familiar with the SUNY schools--they may not have ranked communication programs, but the schools are inexpensive for residents and are very well respected.

    If you want to write, my simple advice is to keep writing. If you make a few connections along the way that would help too. Maybe you can intern for a newspaper/magazine. Call them, write them, send them samples.

    Lastly, ask your guidance counselor/teachers at school for help. They might have more suggestions and even have some contacts for you.

    Keep up the good work and if you have any other questions, do not hesitate to ask.

  4. Hey Nick,

    Send me some of your favorite reviews to

    I'm a little busy, but when I have time, I'll definitely look them over and give you my thoughts.

    looking forward to reading them...


Movies given a 10/10

  • Milk
  • In Bruges
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Dark Knight
  • Iron Man
  • No Country For Old Men
  • The Shining
  • A Clockwork Orange