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Up in smoke

Movies | New Apatow film is funny enough-for a while

Issue: "The audacity of real change," Aug. 23, 2008

All aboard the night train to crazytown! Stoner comedies have been around since Cheech and Chong were first getting arrested, but I don't think I've ever seen one as cheerfully confused as David Gordon Green's Pineapple Express. It's a buddy comedy about a process server (Seth Rogen) who has to defeat a drug kingpin (Gary Cole), get his girl (Amber Heard) back, stop a corrupt local cop (Rosie Perez), and make up with his friend Saul (James Franco).

It's yet another semi-smart goof from producer Judd Apatow, and while it's not a crash-and-burn disaster like Drillbit Taylor, Express doesn't quite live up to Knocked Up or The 40-Year-Old Virgin-movies that were, in a backhanded way, written in defense of traditional fatherhood and chastity. It's old-fashioned but true: A moral imperative makes a better story, even a frothy comedy.

Both those films included Seth Rogen, the 26-year-old savant who wrote and stars in Pineapple Express, and his script shows some promise. The movie's best gags are its quietest-"It's daylight savings. I have to change my bubbe's clocks," frets friendly, on-the-lam pot dealer Saul in a rare calm moment-but there are plenty of chuckles. The real problem with this R-rated comedy (the language is pretty foul, and there's a surprising amount of violence) is that these reasonably funny guys are mostly here to hang out, enjoy each others' company, and smoke weed. That's not exactly high drama.

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And, of course, marijuana is still an illegal psychoactive drug, although the film is set in L.A., where that may seem like less of a big deal (Joel Stein recently devoted a column in the Los Angeles Times to legally procuring pot). Pineapple Express certainly isn't appropriate for children, and it probably isn't much of a date movie, either.

In fact, the film itself most resembles people who have made liberal use of the film's central preoccupation: unconcerned, not terribly bright, and funny enough to hang out with for about an hour. Pineapple Express runs 111 minutes.

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