If you like comedies, there's been a fair number of worthwhile ones this summer. It began with spring's Forgetting Sarah Marshall, continued on with Step Brothers and it looks to end with the upcoming Tropic Thunder. And in-between falls Pineapple Express, and it is one rare bird. It's a buddy comedy, a stoner comedy -- it's almost, almost an action comedy -- and it's pretty darn good at shifting its odd balance of gaiety and gore.
It all begins with the unlikely relationship of a pot dealer and his customer. As Seth Rogen's character, Dale Denton, says, every dealer he knows always thinks the guys he's selling to are his friends. But they aren't. Nobody wants to be friendly with their dealer. It's icky to befriend those who roam the most tawdry of sectors (as a renown Charms Blow Pops and Air Head dealer in middle school, I can affirm this to be true). James Franco (really channeling the funny) plays the poor, friendless high-as-a-Goodyear-Blimp dealer Saul Silver. Saul sells Dale some really good s**t called Pineapple Express. Next thing you know (it doesn't really matter how) Dale witnesses Ted Jones (the great Gary Cole) murder someone. In his haste to get away, he tosses his joint of the rare Pineapple Express by the side of the road. This Pineapple Express (immediately "identified" by Ted) is a rare concoction and Ted knows just how to track it down. And so the movie really begins with Dale and Saul odd coupling, male bonding and yelling a whole lot at each other. It'd all be boring if it weren't so damn funny.
It's the little things that make the movie fly. I really liked the handling of Dale and his way-too-young girlfriend. (Hint: there's a scene with her in a high-school hallway.) There's a moment later in the film where he phones her and you think the movie is about to sell itself short on cheap emotion it never quite earns. Thankfully, it doesn't and it instead shows us what an idiot Dale really is. I also fell a little in love with the ending, which ends in a diner with a few characters gratuitously recalling scenes of the movie. This movie may be dumb, but it knows what it's doing.
There's a bit of an edge to Pineapple Express that separates it from the pack, perfectly encapsulated in Danny McBride's scene-stealing Red. Lovable characters like the Red really need to earn their love. You're not totally on board with this cat until the end where even in his redemption he disappoints until -- finally -- he doesn't. Yes, Pineapple Express manages to finagle some laughs through its bloody turns and indeed more people die in this movie than they do in The Dark Knight. But as the corpses drop so do the gags... so you won't really feel guilty for laughing.