Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #580
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: August 6, 2008
Sub-Genre: Stoner Comedy/Action
Box Office: $101,600,000
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 112 minutes
Director: David Gordon Green
Producers: Judd Apatow, Shauna Robertson
Screenplay: Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Special Effects: John Frazier
Cinematography: Tim Orr
Score: Graeme Revell
Editing: Craig Alpert
Studios: Relativity Media, Apatow Productions
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Stars: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Kevin Corrigan, Gary Cole, Rosie Perez, Amber Heard, Ed Begley Jr., Nora Dunn, Joe Lo Truglio, Arthur Napiontek, Cleo King, Bill Hader, James Remar, Dana Lee, Bobby Lee, Ken Jeong, Justin Long
Suggested Audio Crop
 Curtis Mayfield “Pusherman”
 M.I.A. “Paper Planes”
 Bell Biv DeVoe “Poison”
 Eddy Grant “Electric Avenue”
 Huey Lewis and The News “Pineapple Express”
You never forget your first drug dealer. I was sixteen-years-old and my chosen gateway drug just so happened to be LSD, which likely explains why my mind has never quite been the same since. There was only one place to acquire such psychotropics and this meant paying a visit to my friendly neighborhood pusher and crossing his palm with silver. This was a decidedly fidgety transaction for both parties involved and I recall wishing for it to be over so I could just get on with tripping bollocks. However, it was never quite that easy. You see, on arrival, I would be hurriedly ushered into his office (Mk. III Ford Escort) and there we would sit for a further five minutes before the purchase could take place, which was deemed the acceptable amount of time to not come across too shady. This meant engaging in the obligatory small-talk, a pastime which I have never been particularly fond of, as we both feigned interest in each other and counted down the timer. Talk about rigmarole.
As I grew older, these excruciating car hops were replaced by only mildly less agonizing house calls but the emphasis remained on getting in and out in record time. Ordinarily there’s an unspoken two-way understanding that business will be concluded quick smart but that all changes when you happen across a drug dealer with feelings. Turns out that peddling narcotics for a living can be a desperately lonely affair as every visitation revolves around you having something that someone else needs. While all this supply and demand is fine and dandy, the vendor must get a little disheartened from time-to-time as nobody really shows an interest in their well-being. Thus they fritter the extortionate amounts of dirty money they fleece from us on hi-tech equipment for their apartments in hope that this will act as a conversation starter and persuade their guests to stay a little longer. Did this approach ever work on me? Not in the slightest but then I never met a stockist quite as personable as Saul Silver.
“It’s almost a shame to smoke it. It’s like killing a unicorn… with, like, a bomb.”
You see, Saul (James Franco) is that brother from another mother type and flat-out impossible not to warm to after just a few minutes basking in his leisurely presence. Both carefree and immensely comfortable in his skin, Saul evidently gets high on his own supply, and is more like your affable stoner type than hard-line businessman. Of course, not everyone who he is affiliated with is afforded insight into his sensitive side, and he remains wary wherever necessary as he’s not the kind of guy who’d do well incarcerated and the game he’s in only pays well because of the hazard entailed. However, occasionally a repeat customer wins him over, and he’s just overcome with the need to spark up a bromance. 25-year-old process-server Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) happens to resemble a dude Saul would feel comfortable waking up spooning if the bong does its job. Indeed he’d be fluffing up those couch cushions like a house-mother in a nanosecond, if only the feeling were mutual.
Dale may be an habitual pothead but he takes great pride in the fact that he’s a fully functioning addict. Granted, his job consists mostly of donning all manner of ridiculous disguises in an attempt to arrive at the “you’ve been served by the best” part of the deal, but he’ll take that feeling of accomplishment however he can get it if it means returning to his mobile smog box directly afterwards for one of his frequent mellow outs. In addition to holding down a job reasonably effortlessly, Dale has also managed to woo himself a tender Roni way too young for him and 18-year-old high school hottie Angie (Amber Heard) represents his proudest achievement that doesn’t involve licking and sticking king size rolling papers.
“I go visit her in high school and all the guys she goes to school with are, like, strong and handsome and really, like, funny and do good impressions of Jeff Goldblum and shit like that. And, like, I just feel like a fat, dumb fuckin’ stinky-ass turd when I’m there.”
This is where marijuana doesn’t mesh so well as he’s convinced the pink bubblegum is about to burst and is determined to grasp onto a modicum of control as he’s fully aware that he’s punching above his weight and, sooner or later, she’ll figure that shit out too. Angie is keen to take their relationship to the next level and introduce him to her parents, whereas Dale is almost out of weed and that could prove catastrophic.
“This is like if that Blue Oyster shit met that Afghan Kush I had – and they had a baby. And then, meanwhile, that crazy Northern Light stuff I had and the Super Red Espresso Snowflake met and had a baby. And by some miracle, those two babies met and fucked – this would be the shit that they birthed.”
Anyhoots, it just so happens that Saul has himself a particularly enticing bargaining tool this day, in the form of a rare strain of military grade marijuana by the name of Pineapple Express which he holds pretty much exclusive rights to currently. Dale should feel deeply privileged to be offered a sneak peek but, after unwittingly witnessing a murder at the house of his next victim and blunderingly disposing of his joint roach at the crime scene, such blessings begin to look and act far more like curses. To pin his frown even further down, the amalgamation of the two enforcers in question equates to his very worst nightmare. No-messing drug baron Ted Jones (Gary Cole) and crooked as a pretzel police officer, Carol Brazier (Rosie Perez) offer two sound reasons to get the duck out of fodge and there’s barely time for Saul to grab his stash before the two unlikely buds embark on their first do-or-die road trip together.
“I’m just up here, tryin’ to get a motherfuckin’ scholarship!”
Enter Red (Danny McBride) and this is the kind of guy who would probably take that as a form of payment. One link above Saul on the food-chain, he’s the only other soul in state for whom Pineapple Express doesn’t sound like a fast train to Hawaii. Dale and Saul know they must get to him first but, regrettably, Ted has the very same idea and sends his two head henchmen, Budlofsky (Kevin Corrigan) and Matheson (Craig Robinson), to Red’s pad on damage limitation detail. Needless to say, the plot soon thickens, but there’s still more than enough opportunity for our travel companions to kick back, blaze up, and warm their hands on their very own budding bromance. Sweet natured Saul is all in before the flop and primed for the nuzzle, whereas crabby Dale is far too busy questioning the size of his skin to give up the fanny that freely. It’s a winning dynamic and provides the platform a film like Pineapple Express needs to elevate itself above the usual stoner comedy silage.
“Danger! Danger! Trees! Tree! Tree! Squirrel!”
Conceived by Rogen himself along with Superbad co-writer Evan Goldberg and none other than Judd Apatow himself (who based the concept on Brad Pitt’s character from Tony Scott’s True Romance), Pineapple Express marked director David Gordon Green’s departure towards mainstream filmmaking and arrived at a time when Apatow’s attachment alone all but underwrote a hefty cheque. Over $100 million in box-office receipts and a whole heap of fairly unanimous praise later, it was well and truly job done, and there are numerous reasons why the film resonated to such widespread effect. As with any screenplay the three amigos have any involvement in, the dialogue never once feels forced, and it’s jam-packed with the kind of insightful exchanges that have made Apatow the go-to-guy for double-tiered comedy. It takes some skill to marry inane and intelligent with such a minimum of sweat but this movie strikes the balance exquisitely.
“You know, don’t get down on yourself: You got a great girl, you got a great job where you don’t do anything, you get to smoke weed all day… I wish I had that”
That said, the reason why Pineapple Express is such an overwhelming success is just as much down to its stellar ensemble. Both Rogen and Franco blaze with purpose in their dazed and confused slacker roles, particularly the latter who endears Saul to the audience like it’s just another turkey shoot. Rogen is a shoe-in to play the Dale Dentons of this world and, despite originally writing the part of Saul for himself, does the kind of shit that just comes naturally and does it damned well. Franco, on the other hand, reminds us just how versatile an actor he is with a performance that ranks alongside white-chocolate gangster Alien from Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers as his very most magnanimous. Without the pair’s additive-free chemistry, the glue simply wouldn’t be there. Thread through the glorious McBride as the cross their joint has to bear and we’re only ever one puff from Havana. It’s just instinctual with the trio and their improvisation yields numerous golden nuggets throughout.
“I look like the Hamburglar”
Then we have bickering assassins Budlofsky and Matheson, and their fusion is no less open-handed. Corrigan (Some Guy Who Kills People, The Departed) has quietly agitated absolutely down to pat, whereas Robinson (Eastbound & Down, This Is The End) offers yet another masterclass in the kind of comic timing that you just don’t pick up in acting school. Somebody give this man a leading role. I shit you not, if there’s a solitary muscle in this guy’s face that ain’t funny enough to bust a temple vein from fifty yards, then I must be afflicted with some pretty severe red-eye. He may gripe about resembling the Hamburglar but Robinson himself is every bit as culpable of felony and poaches every last scene that he can cram his beautiful brown head into. Cole and Perez are also on-point as the evildoers of the piece, while we are also gifted priceless cameos from an off-the-chain Bill Hader and custom-fitted Ed. Begley Jr. among others just as notable.
“No, don’t don’t let him gonna… No, don’t wanna.”
Despite many a hurrah, Pineapple Express did divide opinion with regards to its ultra-violent closing act and many felt that it didn’t sit right within the “buddy comedy” context. It’s horses for courses of course but, when things feel this natural, progression seldom feels anything less than organic. People perish in this film and not in their death-bed surrounded by family either. Yet it never deviates from its flight plan unnecessarily and I consider it far more a case of maximizing its reach than overstepping rigid boundaries. Most critically, it has a whole grow tent of soul, and endeavoring not to take Dale and Saul to our hearts is as futile as it is plain mean-spirited. As with anything Apatow puts his name to, you’ll laugh until a little sex wee comes out (Franco’s wishbone moment made me weep pure lactose), cringe with every fiber of your being, and be grateful for every last blowback. As for finding yourself a new drug dealer, well I’d say you’d better call Saul.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 9/10
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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