Considering the drug war itself is a ludicrous, destructive, racist campaign of tragedy and squandered resources, there haven't been many funny drug movies.
That makes no sense. Tragedy is comedy. For instance, I'm totally heartbroken right now, and it sure feels like the whole world is laughing at me. Ever fallen down in public? I bet that got a big laugh, especially if you were bleeding, or a limb ended up sticking out at a wrong angle.
Maybe that's the problem — if drugs make you feel good (and I've certainly never heard of a downside to surging your body with powerful, brain-altering chemicals), then you end up with nothing funny to do or say. Nobody's interested in why gas stations all decided 44 ounces was going to be their biggest pop, or how much that one guy on the TV looks like that other guy on the TV. Keep your crazy mankind-loving thoughts to yourself.
Yet Pineapple Express, a drug-heavy movie if not an out-and-out drug movie, is hilarious. More proof you don't need drugs for life to be a confusing and terrifying trip.
Seth Rogen's living the dream: he gets to play dress-up for his job as a process server, he's in a serious relationship with a foxy 18-year-old, and, thanks to well-connected dealer James Franco, he smokes only the finest.
All that shatters like a dropped bong when Rogen witnesses a cop and drug lord Gary Cole execute a man in cold blood. Rogen flees the scene, dropping a joint rolled with Pineapple Express — the newest, baddest weed in town, which Cole quickly traces back to Franco.
Franco and Rogen go on the lam. Woefully outmatched by the cops and thugs on their tail, it's only a matter of time until they'll be tossed in cuffs or clipped through the brainpan.
The action-comedy is a schizophrenic genre — wait, are we supposed to be laughing when that guy's foot got shot off? — but David Gordon Green, director of a lot of well-regarded indies I've never heard of, builds an absurdist atmosphere right off the bat. With that established, Pineapple Express is free to follow any number of usually funny rabbit trails.
"Usually" is the key. It's a loose, sloppy, playful film. Like an excitable, friendly dog, it's always charged up, happy to see you, and loves doing unexpected things like chewing up one of your roommate's shoes and then spitting that shoe up into the unchewed shoe so when your roommate tries to put it on he ends up wearing a footload of dog slobber. But when that dog jumps on your bed for the 80th time, or licks your foot under the table when there could not possibly have been a dog there, you're left with the sudden and unacceptable urge to lunge forward and sink your teeth into puppy's cute neck.
Actually, I'd much rather bite out a dog's throat than stay mad at Pineapple Express. If its weirdo gags misfire now and then, they're more than compensated by Franco's affable burner or a script loaded with strange and hilarious characters.
Apatow Productions are rightly lauded for their improv-heavy humor, and Green is apparently known for unique touches of his own, but the script, written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, deserves a lot of credit. They interject life into side characters who usually have none. A deep and talented supporting cast helps.
Oh right, and there's action, too! Hysterical, incompetent, chaotic action where sweaty stoners try to stay alive in the midst of a drug war every bit as outlandish as the Yakuza vs. mob battle on the pretzel wagon Simpsons episode.
It's a good mix. With a movie like this — funny, eccentric, mildly emotional, always taking the route you don't expect, but also a little bloated and rough — it can be like getting into a Bizarro Relationship. Instead of being drawn in by a pretty face and then having your own face stamped in an inch at a time as you get to know them better, a properly offbeat movie (of which The Big Lebowski is the reigning champeen) grows on you the more time you have to appreciate its singular qualities.
I'm thinking Pineapple Express is going to run that way. My first impression is it's good, often great. That's what I'll roll with here. My suspicion, though, is it's going to end up a minor classic.