Rogen stars as Dale Denton, a process server with a car full of disguises (the better to sneak up on the subpoenaed) and a lot of down time between jobs to smoke copious amounts of pot. Which leads him, regularly, to James Franco, who plays his dealer, Saul Silver. A lot of the pre-press surrounding Franco, who's lately thought of as leading man material, says he's playing against type. But for any “Freaks and Geeks” fan, Franco's Saul doesn't seem that far removed from Daniel Desario, grown and mellowed and burned the hell out. He couldn't be more believable as a stoner. I have a friend who's lived out west for a decade and sold high-grade marijuana for just as long, and I wondered, when I read that a stoner “consultant” had been hired during production, if he hadn't schemed his way on. Because Saul comes equipped with all the tell-tale details — red eyes, half closed and teary; hair unwashed and stringy; three-day stubble; striped Guatemalan pants; slipper-style shoes. And that haze. When Saul asks Dale what he does, there's an amazing dull trail of incomprehension.“I'm a process server.”
“You're a servant, like a butler? You shine shoes?”The weed that bonds them, a rare, highly potent strand called “Pineapple Express” that smells, Saul tells Dale, like “God's vagina,” also sends them on the run. It's a plot that smacks, probably intentionally, of some of the more ridiculous action comedies of the '80s: While waiting outside of his house to serve him a subpoena, Dale unwittingly witnesses Gary Cole's drug dealer murder a rival. In a panic, he peels out and tosses his joint. Cole, immediately drawn to the smoldering spliff on the road, picks it up, takes one whiff and recognizes his own strand. Realizing that the weed could be traced back to Saul, Dale grabs his dealer and goes on the lam.
Wackiness ensues, though not the hallucinogenic, wish-fulfillment type that stoner movies of late have plied. Saul and Dale get into an awkward, shockingly violent fight with mid-level drug enforcer, Red, played memorably by Danny McBride (who's surely soon to be really, really famous), and it looks like they've never thrown a punch before. Craig Robinson, of “The Office” fame, plays a sensitive killer, who inexplicably burrows his hands into warm food. Saul gets his foot stuck in the windshield of a Slushy-covered get-away car in a scene that had the audience choking with laughter when I saw the film.
As the movie climaxes, it shifts from stoner comedy to almost nihilistic stoner action-comedy. A lot of people, particularly McBride's Red, get shot, though usually even the most graphic violence manages to elicit laughs. Ninjas figure in.Indie stalwart David Gordon Green, who's originally from Little Rock, makes the jump into the director's chair of a big-budget comedy admirably. His pastoral, lyrical style doesn't show its face much (not surprisingly), though there's a hilarious dreamlike sequence of Dale and Saul playing leapfrog in the woods that'll look familiar to any fan of Green's oeuvre. But that collaborative freewheeling style he's known for seems to mesh well with Apatow's crew. There's more weirdness here than in Apatow and Rogen's previous efforts, which helps, particularly when we get to the end, where the inevitable sweet dude-bonding culminates. This time they're bleeding, earless and shot. But still friends forever.