Pineapple Express

Posted on August 5, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating: Rated R for pervasive language, drug use, sexual references and violence.
Profanity: Constant extremely strong, vivid, profane, and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Characters are drug dealers and characters are habitual drug abusers, drug use by adults and young teenagers
Violence/ Scariness: Very graphic blood-spattering violence, many characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: August 8, 2008

Another week, another Apatow movie. Another Apatow movie, another story of lame, pot-smoking slackers up to all kinds of hijinks and discovering the true meaning of friendship.


Comedy is often grounded in the pleasure of seeing someone get away with bad behavior we are not allowed to enjoy or seeing someone safely other than ourselves squirm through a nightmare scenario of humiliation and failure. This kind of comedy has an essential and revelatory childishness that reminds us, sitting comfortably in our stadium seating, how fine the line is between how we try to appear and what we are really thinking.

But whether that is slapstick like the Three Stooges bashing each other or outrageous behavior like Howard Stern’s radio show, there has to be something that keeps us on the side of the anti-heroes and this movie runs out of goodwill long before the finish. In The 40-Year-Old Virgin the leading man was a decent guy who just somehow missed one of the essential off-ramps to adulthood. In Superbad we get to witness one of those efforts to make it to the off-ramp as it happens. Adolescent behavior is expected when the characters are actual adolescents. But in this movie, most of the characters are unappealing, generic, and just too skeezy.

Except for James Franco. Casting directors take one look at those cheekbones and assign Franco to the brooding category. One of his early break-out roles was the broodiest of them all, the lead in a made-for-television biopic about James Dean. More recently, he smoldered his way through the “Spider-Man” movies as best friend/rival/nemesis Harry Osborn. Only Apatow saw Franco’s gifts as a comic actor and cast him in “Freaks and Geeks.”

As Saul, a sweetly stoned dealer who just wants to take care of his Bubbe, watch some television, and make some friends, he turns in one of the choicest comic performances of the year, making every moment about more than just being dim or baked. When he says that smoking the super-potent strain of marijuana that gives the film its name is almost like “killing a unicorn” or is happily reminded, when he says he’d like a job that involved hanging around and getting stoned all day that that is exactly the job he has, or when he unexpectedly finds the mental capacity to come up with an astounding list of possible ways that the bad guys might track them down, he gives us a character who is enchantingly caught up in a world of perpetual possibilities.

Seth Rogan, who co-wrote the script, is far less interesting as Dale, a 25-year-old process server with a high school girlfriend who is vastly more mature than he is. He can see that even through the constant cloud of marijuana smoke, and that only makes him more insecure and needy — and juvenile.

A vicious drug dealer (Gary Cole) and a corrupt cop (Rosie Perez) come after Dale and Saul, and various other people get caught up in the chase, including a fellow dealer whose loyalties are rather fluid (a funny Danny R. McBride). Extreme and graphic violence is interspersed with various stoner riffs and random encounters, including Bubbe’s assisted living facility and a surreal suburban family dinner with the parents of the high school girlfriend. Franco continues to find fresh ways to engage us but Perez and Cole are drastically underused and Rogan is as stale as last week’s bong water. It’s not outrageous enough, it’s not audacious enough, and it’s just not funny enough.

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12 Replies to “Pineapple Express”

  1. Aaron, did you read my review? I said I liked James Franco in the movie — he was terrific and I said he gave one of the choicest comic performances of the year. And what is “skeezy” (not “skivvy”) if not a comment on the movie’s content? What exactly is your point?
    I am always glad to hear comments about movies and even comments on my reviews but it seems to me that your inability or unwillingness to understand what I said suggests that I am not the one who needs to buy a clue.

  2. Slacker drug movies are like asparagus. You either like ’em or you don’t and no amount of convincing will change your mind. I don’t care for either asparagus or slacker drug movies. My son loves both. For that reason alone the generations keep changing and the river of life eddys and flows.

  3. I’ll wait for the edited TV version to surface. At least all the disgusting cussing will be gone out of it & any gratuitous violence, if there is any. I’m not a fan of illegal drugs but if this film shows how messed up people can really get when under the influence then it will do a service to communities all around. If it’s meant to send you out to score then it’s not a good thing. LOVE Mr.Franco (and his cheek bones), LOVE FREAKS & GEEKS so I’ll tolerate this one when it comes on the tube.

  4. Thanks, Dianna, and I share your love for James Franco. And “Freaks and Geeks” is a gem. But if they cut out the cussing and gratuitous violence from this one, the film will be about 10 minutes long!

  5. My attraction to this film was purely from Franco in the trailer. I think his a wonderful actor and director that somehow gets missed or placed into the eye candy pile. I hope more people will seek him out for varying roles.

  6. I agree! Franco is a terrifically talented actor who really gets to show what he can do in this film. He also makes a small unbilled appearance in another movie opening next month, “Nights in Rodanthe.” Seeing that film this week reminded me again of how much I hope he gets a part that takes advantage of all he has to offer.

  7. Hi Again MovieMom!
    I was just wondering why did you place this under adult and tropic thunder as adult while SuperBad is Mature high schooler because the 1st 15minutes should be unrated.
    Thank You

  8. Hi, Derik! It’s a close call, as “mature high schooler” is around age 17 and adult is late teens or 20’s. And the age recommendations are guidelines. I recognize that people vary enormously at all ages and there are many adults for whom these movies would not be appropriate. But the pervasive positive portrayal of drug use and extreme graphic violence of the other two movies suggested to me that they were more directed toward older audiences than “Superbad.”

  9. I think more teens saw this than adults. I also do not understand why you need to say that it is okay for adults to see this movie, I mean shouldn’t they be able to decide that for themselves? Or maybe not sense it seems that this site is aimed at close-minded religious extremists who can’t make any single decision on their own, unless of course that decision is to drink moonshine or not to drink moonshine.
    Any rebuttal will be greatly appreciated. Prove Me Wrong.

  10. Thanks, Buster, but no rebuttal is necessary as you have made an assertion, not an argument. Where is your evidence?
    This site is aimed at parents and others interested in media and culture. For parents who are deciding whether a movie like “Pineapple Express” is appropriate for their teenagers, I provide information about the content of the film and a recommended age for viewing. They can use that information as a part of their decision-making process. It seems to me that if this site was created by or directed at “close-minded religious extremists” (sic), I would not be recommending a movie like “Pineapple Express” or “Kill Bill” or even “Harry Potter” at all for any audience. I would not be pointing out with approval positive portrayals of gay characters or suggesting families avoid films with homophobic humor. But perhaps you have a different kind of closed-minded religious extremists in mind or perhaps you just have not thought this through very clearly. Nevertheless, I welcome your comments and would be glad to hear your thoughts on the movies you see.

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