Funny, Entertaining Pineapple Express Is Also Super-Bad
- 2008 6 Aug
DVD Release Date: January 6, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: August 6, 2008
Rating: R (for pervasive language, drug use, sexual references and violence)
Run Time: 111 min.
Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride, Gary Cole, Rosie Perez, Ed Begley Jr., Nora Dunn, Amber Heard
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following review contains discussion of adult subject matter that is not appropriate for young readers. Parents, please exercise caution.
It should go without saying that an rated-R stoner comedy from the makers of last year’s raunchy hit Superbad is not a film for Crosswalk’s target audience—but for the record I’ll say it anyway. Pineapple Express—laced with profanities, vulgarities, violence and pot smoking—will likely be far too offensive for regular readers of Crosswalk.
That said, and to be fair, Pineapple Express serves as a stark contrast to (and improvement over) the recent Will Ferrell misfire, Step Brothers. While both push the limits of R-rated humor, Step Brothers is wholly reliant on its crudity in a way that Pineapple Express is not. To draw a grammatical metaphor, Ferrell’s coarse content is “the noun” while producer Judd Apatow’s is “the adjective.”
Distinguishing that difference (er, if you were able to follow it) may not make the experience any less offensive, but it does highlight the fact that there’s more going on here than most (lazy) movies of its ilk—narratively, thematically, and comedically.
Dale and Saul (Seth Rogen and James Franco) are two potheads who live from toke to toke. Dale maintains his buzz while serving subpoenas around L.A., and Saul smokes weed at home while also selling it—including exclusive dealership of the pot concoction known as “pineapple express.” The malaise of their day-to-day existence is completely upended when Dale witnesses a murder and the killers are able to trace the “pineapple” marijuana butt he dropped at the scene back to Saul.
The killer is a drug lord who employs corrupt cops, he’s at war with an Asian drug kingpin and now Dale and Saul are caught in the middle with nowhere to turn and are on the run. Subsequently, this stoner comedy quickly becomes an action comedy, much more in the spirit of The Blues Brothers than Cheech & Chong. Fueled by unpredictable characters, aggressive (and occasionally brutal) fight scenes and impressively-staged car chases, the action is inspired and rarely takes a breather.
When it does, the characters are not only allowed to develop but grow. Once only eager to reach his next high, Dale comes to realize that the results of their constant buzz are consistently bad, and both recognize how it sabotages their long-term goals. Though the film never explicitly becomes anti-dope, it does serve as a (albeit affectionate) rejection of a baked lifestyle.
Rogen and Franco elevate their performances above one-note stoner clichés by creating a sincere “bromance” between two guys who are, in many ways, very different (with pot being their only common interest); no doubt the chemistry is an extension of their previous work on the short-lived TV series Freaks & Geeks (the guys here could plausibly be adult versions of those characters). They also invest fully into every fall, punch, leap and tumble, so much so that they no doubt finished the shoot with many bruises and cuts.
To that end, Rogen’s screenplay (co-written with Superbad collaborator Evan Goldberg) hilariously tweaks archetypal action sequences in small but inventive ways, and indie-director David Gordon Green’s 1970s visual flair brings another level of inspiration and energy to this ’80s action homage. If Quentin Tarantino were to remake Beverly Hills Cop, it’d probably feel a lot like this manic, violent and often foul ride.
So at the end of it all, what’s a discerning Christian to make of Pineapple Express? While I won’t presume to answer that question categorically, I will say this: the Apatow crew may have a lot of things to repent for, but their gifts aren’t among them.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Pot smoking throughout, including experimental creations like “the cross” doobie.
- Language/Profanity: All levels of profanity used throughout, including consistent usage of sexually crude language and graphic scatological humor.
- Sex/Nudity: A man’s naked backside. Dale—in his 20s—dates an 18-year-old high school student, but there’s no sexual content or activity. Saul uses his thumb to make a crude sexual gesture. A reference is made to God’s “female” genitalia.
- Violence/Other: A man is murdered point-blank in the back of the head. Numerous examples of violent gunplay, including people being shot point-blank multiple times, machine gun fire repeated into people, bloody fights, accidents, and destructive car chases.
Jeffrey Huston is a film director, writer and producer at Steelehouse Productions in Tulsa, Okla. He is also cohost of the "Steelehouse Podcast,” along with Steelehouse Executive Creative Mark Steele, where each week they discuss God in pop culture.
To listen to the weekly podcast, please visit www.steelehouse.com or click here. You can also subscribe to the "Steelehouse Podcast” through iTunes.