Film review by: Witney Seibold
The word “bromosexual” is spoken aloud, without irony or shame, in David Gordon Green’s “Pineapple Express,” the latest film to come from the Judd Apatow school of comedies. I’ll say the word again: bromosexual. While “Pineapple Express” is ostensibly a stoner comedy about potheads getting into wacky trouble due to their prodigious marijuana intake, it is actually a delightfully fatuous musing on the nature of straight-male friendship. A note to women: if you are at all baffled by your male friends and their buddies, watch “Pineapple Express.” It will shed a good deal of light. It turns out that fistfights, “hanging out,” and ultra-macho, gun-toting behavior really is what brings dudes together.
I saw “Pineapple Express” with two straight females. They did understand that it was about male bonding and soaring through the at-bro-sphere, but they seemed just as tired of the on-screen maleness as they were of the off-screen maleness they encounter everyday. At least “Pineapple Express” has the skill and cogency and decency to take a somewhat objective view of this type of male relationship, rather than soaking itself in stupid-ass testosterone. “First Blood” springs to mind.
Co-screenwriter Seth Rogen plays Dale Denton, a part-time process server and full-time stoner. He is relatively content handing out subpoenas, as it allows him time alone in his car to smoke the bulk of California’s weed output. He is dating an 18-year-old high school student named Angie (Amber Heard), and few people, least of all her parents (Ed Begley, Jr., Nora Dunn), really approve of the relationship. Dale’s pot dealer is the perpetually laidback Saul (James Franco) who has somehow gotten his hands on a rare strain of kush nicknamed Pineapple Express. According to Saul it smells like God’s vagina. Smoking it is like killing a unicorn. That must be some pretty good shit.
Dale, while high, natch, witnesses a drugland killing at the hands of a local drug baron (Gary Cole) and a dirty cop (Rosie Perez). He dumps a doob on the street and flees to Saul’s place in a panic. The two of them go on the lam together, assuming that the drug baron will be able to identify the specialized weed, and track it back to them, only to kill them. As it turns out, they are right, and they spend the film alternately fleeing the bad guys, and coming up with a half-assed plan to take them down. They eventually hook up with another dealer named Red (Danny McBride, excellent), and the film’s finale involves a secret underground pot factory, and a huge, huge shootout. Oh, and a shot of one character, sans pants, bravely carrying another from a burning barn.
Yes, this film was directed by David Gordon Green, the gentle neo-realist filmmaker behind such poetically heartbreaking films as “All the Real Girls,” “Undertow,” and the brilliant “George Washington.” While it could be argued that this sort of wacky, broad material is beneath his skill, Green actually brings a sense of atmosphere and pacing to this film that a lesser filmmaker would have overlooked. Other stoner comedies would have been content to meander, even stumble, from one goofy set piece to the next. Green allows “Pineapple Express” to act like a real film.
This is the second recent pot comedy I’ve enjoyed, the other being Gregg Araki’s “Smiley Face” (2007). These two films prove that a drug movie is capable of containing wit, structure, and genuine laughs.
The film is, very transparently, pro-pot. I don’t partake of the wacky tobaccy myself (I can waste time and act stupid when I’m straight), but I was not offended by this attitude. Some people might be. Just a friendly warning.
“Pineapple Express” is also very violent. And it’s not a cartoonish gore like in the recent “Tropic Thunder.” It’s a cold, brutal form of violence. Sometimes comic, yes, but still brutal. It’s almost unsettling, about two-thirds of the way through the film, to see our previously-laidback, ultra-stoned heroes take up guns and actually fire them with intent to kill. But then, that just connects back to the overreaching testosterone-laced ultra-male bro-ness of it all. What better way to settle a conflict than with simple revenge, and a whole lotta violence?
Bro, my bro, my bromosexual, I can’t think of a better way.