Back around the turn of the millennium, Seth Rogen and James Franco appeared together in Judd Apatow’s short-lived but much-loved high-school TV series Freaks and Geeks. Since then Rogen’s become a near-ubiquitous presence in the movies coming off the Apatow production line (including The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad), while Franco has become a key player in the Spider-Man franchise. The best part of a decade later, though, the former Freaks have teamed up again for the odd couple buddy movie cum action thriller Pineapple Express.
The duo play a couple of druggie losers, a latter-day Cheech and Chong going through life in a permanent cannabis haze. Rogen (who co-scripted the movie with his Superbad writing partner Evan Goldberg) is process server Dale Denton (the guy who gets to crow “You’ve been served!” as he hands over a subpoena to an unwitting sap), a job that allows him to cruise around in his car between assignments, listening to talk radio and smoking joints.
Franco, meanwhile, is Dale’s dealer, Saul Silver, who has just taken delivery of some of the “rarest weed known to mankind”, so rare, in fact that “it’s almost a shame to smoke it. It’s like killing a unicorn… with, like, a bomb.” But the rarity of ‘Pineapple Express’ comes to haunt the pair after Dale witnesses drug kingpin Ted (Gary Cole) and crooked cop Carol (Rosie Perez) killing an Asian rival and realises that the joint he dropped at the scene of the crime can be traced back to Saul through his middleman Red (a scene-stealing performance by Danny McBride).
So Dale and Saul go on the run together, dodging Ted’s hit-men, getting into chaotic fights and even more lunatic car chases, while simultaneously going through the male-bonding or “bromancing” that is a staple of Apatow movies (this time, Apatow has a co-story and co-producer credit; indie fave David Gordon Green directs). Dale and Saul’s relationship is the movie’s heart, but their friendship’s drug-addled sweetness sits a little uneasily with the blood spilled ever more copiously as the body count rises. The awkward meshing of the film’s stoner comedy and action thriller halves will prove jarring for some viewers, but given that Pineapple Express is undoubtedly a lot funnier if you’re as high as the heroes when you watch it, its future cult status is assured.