Back in 1937, experiments were conducted on the effects of a drug that brought some very grave conclusions to the U.S. Military, and the American government as a whole. Pot was, to all intents and purposes, not the type of substance that bred obedience and reverence for authority in its users, and the decision was to have it criminalised to prevent anyone using it ever again. Well, that was the idea, but for process server Dale Denton (Seth Rogen), a keen stoner like plenty of others, he didn't see the big deal...
Oddly, Pineapple Express did not begin with the stoner's favourite conspiracy theory about the banning of marijuana, the whole William Randolph Hearst had it made illegal because it interfered with his media empire story, as the paper that media was printed on was an investment he was not about to see given up for extremely high quality marijuana paper, probably because that would have taken up too much of the jokey prologue and spun it off into paranoid territories. Yet the accusation that pot made you paranoid was what informed much of the narrative.
It was Dale who gets a strong dose of the fear, but he's not alone. What happens is he is due to serve a guy called Ted (Gary Cole), only to witness that man and a policewoman (Rosie Perez) execute a man in his home. Panicking, he makes a clumsy getaway, dropping his joint in the escape which Ted picks up and identifies as the Pineapple Express of the title - not so good when Ted is a lawman who can pinpoint the dealer who sells this to one person. And as Dale's dealer Saul Silver (James Franco) is the only person who that other dealer has sold to, our two unlikely heroes surmise that getting the hell out of there is a top idea.
This was one of the Judd Apatow movies that were all over the turn of the millennium American comedy landscape, and like many of those was a substantial hit, raising the profiles of the cast members many of whom were regulars of the Apatow repertory. Rogen, who co-wrote the script, and Franco had gotten their big break in the producer's cult drama series Freaks and Geeks, and their association with him had done their careers no harm whatsoever. Certainly there was a mood of all pals together mucking in to create laughter, although not everyone was won over, as the Apatow comedies were far from universally liked as their reputations would have you believe.
The fact that Pineapple Express was as much a thriller as it was a comedy pointed to it being a spoof, but it wasn't really, it simply employed those thriller twists - the whole couple on the run thing turned into a buddy movie - and built the humour around them. At times it was very funny, with Rogen mining his aggravated "What the hell are you doing?" persona to rewarding effect, and Franco emphasising his spacey style to do the same: they made a very good team. But the framework they had to keep returning to made violence necessary, fine if it was slapstick fights but when they picked up guns for the finale and started killing people were we meant to take this far more gravely than what had gone before? Certainly the relationship between Dale and Saul spoke of deeper feelings in a humorous manner, but you never saw Abbott and Costello or The Three Stooges resorting to murder to solve their mayhem. If it was all a bit one note until that point, at least it wasn't embarrassing. Music by Graeme Revell.
American indie director with a strong visual sense. Film school graduate Green made a big impression with his debut film, the powerful drama George Washington, while 2003's All the Real Girls was similarly well-received. An unexpected change of pace appeared when he directed stoner comedy Pineapple Express, the biggest success of his career to that point, following it up with the widely reviled Your Highness. In contrast, the acclaimed Joe represented a return to his indie drama roots.