Produced by comedy man-of-the-moment Judd Apatow and directed by David Gordon Green, Pineapple Express follows a pair of druggie losers (James Franco and Seth Rogen) as they reach the top of the hit-list when one witnesses a mob murder by an evil drug lord (Gary Cole) and his corrupt cop partner (Rosie Perez). Marked for death, they set off on a mad-scramble escape, as both conceived and executed by habitual pot smokers.
Dale Denton (Rogen) is a schlubby twentysomething who doesn’t let his job as a process server intrude too much on his prodigious weed habit. Between official duty runs, he drops in on his high school girlfriend Angela (Amber Heard), lobbies talk radio hosts for the legalization of marijuana and of course rolls a couple joints. His dealer, Saul Silver (Franco), is a kind-hearted, wide-smiling soul who wants to be Dale’s best friend a little too much. When Dale witnesses a hit by drug lord Ted Jones (Cole) and his corrupt cop lover Carol (Perez), though, he instinctively high-tails it back to Saul’s pad… but only after accidentally dropping a very special, easily identifiable joint outside Ted’s place. Looking to tie up loose ends, Ted dispatches two henchmen (Craig Robinson and Kevin Corrigan) to question Saul’s supplier, Red (Danny McBride, above center), who quickly rats out Saul. The guns come out, and with their lives in jeopardy, Saul and Dale look to try to somehow score an upper hand; fisticuffs, wild chases in police cruisers and a siege at Angela’s house ensue, all before a shootout at a secret underground drug lair.
Pineapple Express more or less works as a stoner vehicle with intermittant flashes of shock violence, owing largely to the committed character work of in particular Franco, who’s a hoot. It’s this sly interplay (with Saul and Red reminiscing about how they contracted venereal diseases, say) that carries the day, much more than the brawny action — executed in only so-so fashion — that makes up the movie’s third act. With his arthouse roots, Green (George Washington, All the Real Girls, Snow Angels) is hired to give the film some offbeat edges, as with the montage moment — somewhat evocative of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid‘s “Raindrops Are Falling on My Head” segment — when Dale and Saul play leapfrog and blow smoke on a caterpillar. Another idiosyncratic touch that works to the film’s benefit is Graeme Revell’s alternately brawny and cheesy synth score, which sounds like an Atari game gone wild. Overall, a lesser entry in the recent “bro-mance” sub-genre, perhaps, but not without its moments.
Pineapple Express comes to home video in a variety of formats and versions, including a Blu-ray disc with exclusive bonus material, including a game based on the film. Reviewing off of the unrated single-disc version, though, there’s still plenty to enjoy. Housed in a regular plastic Amray case, the movie is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen split into 28 chapters, and comes with English and French language 5.1 Dolby digital audio tracks, as well as optional English and French subtitles. The one big problem is that a cover sticker advertises both the theatrical and extended-cut versions of the film, but the latter is available nowhere on the regular menu screen. Instead, only once the regular “play” function has been selected can the extended version (117 minutes, versus 112 minutes for the theatrical cut) be chosen. This means that quick-play aficionados can’t select the long-play version, then skip past all those annoying start-up admonitions by just jumping straight to a chapter selection and toggling back to the beginning. Ah, well… small potatoes, I guess.
As for the actual bonus material, four deleted/extended scenes run a total of 10 minutes, the biggest difference being found in the movie’s black-and-white introductory sequence with Bill Hader and James Remar; Saul and Dale’s uncomfortable drug-buy conversation at Saul’s apartment is also extended, with Saul inviting Dale to go see Phantom of the Opera with him. As might be expected, the film’s feature-length audo commentary track is a rousing, messy group affair. It starts with Rogen and co-writer Evan Goldberg, Franco, Apatow, McBride, Ed Begley, Jr., and director Green, who’s patched in via conference call from another city and gives props to the shirtwear of a bit player at the film’s premiere. Begley, who the upstarts joke is “the Rod Carew of drug stories,” leaves about halfway through, and Perez and Robinson both stop by; producer Shauna Robertson also calls in, and inspires a brief discussion about the physiques of real-life drug dealers. Naturally, plenty of out-there anecdotes get mad run, including tales of being bombarded with urine-filled balloons while shooting in downtown Los Angeles, and a story in which Perez quotes L.L. Cool J as yelling at his wife, “If you don’t shut the fuck up, I’m gonna punch you in the pussy!” Special regrets also go out to Jeff Goldblum, who suffers a coarse exclamation in the movie; Rogen talks about incidentally meeting Goldblum in person during filming, but then chickening out about telling him about the line.
There’s a 21-minute making-of featurette, which includes footage from a March 2006 table read and Perez’s amusing imitation of Rogen. Producer Apatow, meanwhile, talks about the genesis of the film — watching True Romance (on laserdisc!) eight to 10 years ago, and being so enamored with Brad Pitt‘s character that he wanted to see a separate movie follow just him. A five-minute gag reel is also featured; highlights include Franco accidentally touching Rogen’s balls, Rogen baring his ass, Ed Begley, Jr. invoking the phrase “skull fucking,” and Rogen’s character pumping up McBride’s Red by telling him that he could be reincarnated “as Jenna Jameson‘s tit butter.” To view the movie’s trailer, click here; to purchase the unrated, single-disc DVD via Amazon, click here. B- (Movie) B (Disc)