For them, tying a shoelace is akin to solving a Rubik's cube.

Pineapple Express

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis



            Every generation loves to explore its own particular addictions. Comedies, dramas, and action films that nail a habit of the moment have peppered the last half century. Think of all the alcoholics who hit bottom on the big screen in the ‘50s, of the slackers and drug users who entertained us in the ‘70s, of the suppliers and buyers of today who have made pot the cash crop of the pop culture. And of course, sex is good for laughs in any era.

            If Pineapple Express has a godfather, it is certainly director Kevin Smith who introduced a whole new language to the screen when he made Clerks. Before Mr. Smith had we ever understood what goes on the minds of a generation completely unengaged with life on any level, for whom work was a completely alien concept? As the current chronicler of pot and sex habits, Judd Apatow has made a movie not just about stoners but about comic violence in the supply chain. His heroes are searching for contemporary nirvana: perfect pot. With their brains already turning to mush, these amblers resemble nothing so much as schlubs with defective brain wiring. For them, tying a shoelace is akin to solving a Rubik’s cube.

            Dale (Seth Rogen) is a process server, or as his friend calls him: a “protest servant” who stops for his fix at the vomit soaked apartment of his supplier, Saul (James Franco) who lives in suffocating squalor with no thought for anything but his entrepreneurial bent toward inventing new and better ways to ingest the substances of his trade. Saul confesses to wanting to use his talents to become a civil engineer; Dale wants to be a radio talk show host. Good luck, boys.

            After Dale witnesses a murder on a subpoena search gone bad, he and Saul spend the rest of the movie on the run and trading betrayals with their new buddy, Red (Danny R. McBride). From that point on the movie is wrapped in a strange fake violence, an odd turn of events considering that Apatow characters are rarely mean. And so we have an action/drug caper that seems out of place until we catch on: the good guys may get shot through the heart, but they live to inhale another day.

            Seth Rogen is manic here, funny in the sight gags, but laboring hard. James Franco is inspired as the slowwitted, burned out hulk who takes a long moment to catch on to whatever has just been said to him. His is a consistently funny rendering of the unmoored mind. Danny R. McBride comes along mid way and nearly takes the show home in his pocket. If you are over nineteen and, God forbid, working for a living, the humor in the culture of weed may elude you. As reluctant as I am to admit this, there is a distinct possibility that in this case, I am on the wrong side of the generational divide.

 


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