Seth Rogen and his screenwriting partner/childhood friend Evan Goldberg followed their super-hit SUPERBAD with an unusual bro-mantic comedy that's filled with a shocking amount of blood, sweat and, above all, tears. In their hilariously pitched world of lonely, overly sensitive drug dealers and thin-skinned hit men, bullets don't hurt half as much as dirty looks and unkind words.
Twenty-five-year old pothead Dale Denton (Rogen) has the perfect job for his low-impact, high-intake lifestyle: He's a process server and a pretty good one at that. Driving around Clark County, Nevada, in a beat-up Cadillac with a stack of subpoenas and a variety of costumes, Dale impersonates everyone from a Xerox repairman to an ER surgeon by way of getting his unsuspecting targets to admit who they are before they're righteously served. Some may say it's an underhanded way to make a living, but the job leaves Dale plenty of time to get and stay high and visit his girlfriend, 18-year-old high school senior Angie (Amber Heard), before school lets out. On this particular day -- the first of what will turn out to be the longest 48 hours of his life -- Dale makes a stop at the apartment of his new dealer, lonely longhair Saul Silver (a spot-on James Franco), who convinces Dale to share a crucifix-shaped "cross-joint" rolled with a rare and very potent new strain of weed called "Pineapple Express." Dale humors Saul for a few minutes, but then he's off to serve his final subpoena of the day to local mobster Ted Jones (Gary Cole). Planning his strategy across the street from Ted's house while smoking some Pineapple Express, Dale panics when a cop car pulls up behind him. But instead of busting him, the policewoman (Rosie Perez) enters the premises and moments later shots ring out. A fatally wounded Asian man throws himself against the plate-glass window and Dale watches in stoned horror as Ted and the cop pump him full of bullets. Dale makes a very noisy escape back to Saul's pad, but he leaves behind a tell-tale clue: The still smoldering joint. With one drag, Ted knows exactly what this possible witness to murder has been smoking: Ted is the county's sole source of Pineapple Express, and since he distributes to just one middle man -- Red (Danny McBride) -- who deals only to Saul, Ted knows just where to go for a short list of names. With the kind of paranoid but entirely accurate foresight associated with those who smoke incredible quantities of pot, Dale realizes his mistake and hustles Saul out of the apartment just moments before Brad's goons, Budlofsky (Kevin Corrigan) and Matheson (Craig Robinson), show up. Unable to go to the police -- in addition to the drugs they'd find in Saul's apartment, Dale knows one cop who is now looking for him -- Dale and Saul go on the run, totally panicked and totally baked.
Like the film's giddily intoxicating cannabis hybrid, Rogen and Goldberg's script cross-pollinates Cheech-and-Chong style stoner comedy with Tarantino-esque ultra-violence. That's a pretty novel idea, but what makes the film notable is their willingness to portray affectionate male bonding without resorting to crude homophobic humor and strip-club scenes to ensure audiences that no, the guys aren't gay (refreshingly, it's never even an issue). While the comely Heard shows up from time to time, the real romance is between Dale, a decent guy who'd rather stay comfortably numb than grow up, and sweet-natured stoner Saul, who deals to keep his bubby (Connie Sawyer) in a nice nursing home. The film has the same unexpected, unabashed tenderness as SUPERBAD, but in the absolute last place anyone would ever think of looking: a fast-paced and extremely bloody crime comedy. Even imposing hit man Matheson must remind his sidekick that though he may look tough, he has a lot of feelings. "And you've hurt every one of them," he sniffles. It's a fresh, funny idea that makes for what is often a very funny movie. leave a comment --Ken Fox