By David Weiner
The "bromance" has had many incarnations in cinematic history, from Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot to Paul Newman and Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon. Yet never has the bromance been such a force at the box office. Almost entirely due to the rise of the Frat Pack and the Judd Apatow crew, these days comedic characters are not so interested in chasing girls with their friends as being there for each other and sharing emotions. Huh?!?
Enter Pineapple Express, which opens today in theaters nationwide. The latest Apatow-approved production is written by its star, Seth Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg. While last summer the pair detailed the trials and tribulations of teenagedom in Superbad, this time around they’ve graduated onto more grown up fare, focusing on the trials and tribulations of a pothead process server (Rogen) and his drug dealer (James Franco). Okay, so superficially they haven’t matured much, but trust me, it’s more complex than it sounds. Yes, there are lots of drug and sex and gay jokes, and yes, slapstick comedy abounds, but Pineapple Express is darker and more absurd than any Rogen or Apatow vehicle yet.
The whole of Pineapple Express seems to operate in an alternate universe, where villains are self-aware of their maniacal laughter, ninjas are all-too real, heroes are equipped with huge balls, and just about anyone can survive a bullet or two (or two hundred). While it’s tempting to say that the film is simply a stoner fantasy, from two dudes smoking a spliff on the couch, doing so would be missing what’s most unique about this film: Rogen and Goldberg have figured out how to open up the stoner narrative to an audience beyond, well, stoners, something Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle almost succeeded in and that probably hasn’t been done properly since The Wizard of Oz.
In fact, I expect the most common complaint moviegoers may have with the film not to be about the characters’ penchant for lighting up, but about the film’s surprisingly high level of violence. Guns, knives, and cars are used with deadly force proliferate every turn, a clever play on the typical action film, and somewhat fitting in a hazy world where the cops are bad and the drug dealers (at least some of them) are good.
While it was good to see Franco breaking out his habit of starring in shitty films, the film’s true standout comes in the portly shape of Danny R. McBride. McBride, perhaps best known as a player in Will Ferrell’s FunnyOrDie website, plays Red, a fast-talking, back-stabbing, unkillable drug dealer who offers up the film’s funniest lines. Though Franco should finally see his career get out of second gear, I’ll put my money on McBride as this summer’s breakout actor.