The appeal of Pineapple Express is pretty basic: Two guys get stoned and have an adventure. For the sake of anyone seriously concerned about spending time and dime on a movie that might retread elements they've experienced with Cheech and Chong, Harold and Kumar, The Big Lebowski, How High, the Friday movies and Half Baked, here's the part of the review where I tell you what the story's about.
Dale (Seth Rogen) is a perpetually stoned process server whose dealer Saul (James Franco) has scored a rare and coveted killer bud called Pineapple Express. When Dale smokes up outside of a crime scene, the cop (Rosie Perez) and drug dealer (Gary Cole) responsible for the murder try to make sure Dale and Saul can't live to tell about it.
Rogen and Franco, reunited from TV's Freaks and Geeks with producer Judd Apatow, find themselves surviving action movie mayhem in a mind-altered state. Their rapport is funny, particularly when the hysterically unhinged Danny McBride (Hot Rod) teams up as the third wheel. But the escapades aren't as vibrantly imagined as in the first Harold and Kumar movie. An escape through the woods at night is missing a comedic threat to make it memorable. When director David Gordon Green (still not recovered from the disorientation that happens when your first movie is an acknowledged masterpiece) mocks indie film preciousness with a montage of them getting high in nature, it doesn't quite cut loose from the overwrought brotherhood theme Apatow is so drawn to.
Pineapple Express is a crowd pleaser but it's exactly the movie it's expected to be. I resent the way Apatow's movies try to appeal to everyone, but then assume a rebellious stance through carefully placed naughty jokes. This inconsistency is most obvious in the missed opportunity of the action scenes. The effort to pay homage to '80s buddy shoot-'em-ups loses its edge by playing the violence for laughs, even turning to Austin Powers-like spoof on occasion.
The actors have an amusing rapport, but the movie needs more bite.