Running Time: 105 mins
Rated: Rated MA15+ (strong drug use and violence, sexual references and coarse language)
This movie is advertised as a stoner-action comedy. The term "stoned' is a slang term for being high or intoxicated on marijuana and it has spawned stoner- actors and stoner-films, all saying how good it is to take drugs. The film finds laughs in doing this and adds into the mix considerable violence. Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) visits his dealer Saul Silver (James Franco) and he purchases a particularly virulent variety of marihuana called Pineapple Express. Unfortunately, Dale witnesses a drug murder committed by a corrupt police officer (Rosie Perez) and he drops his "weed.' This now means that the drug bosses (Gary Cole and others) can trace him easily and both Dale and Saul find themselves running for their lives.
The source for making this movie stems from Brad Pitt's character in "True Romance,' which was a film about a stoner called Floyd. The comic moments in the film derive their thrust from movies such as "Superbad' and "Knocked Up', the latter being very popular. The MA15+ classification means that young people will see it. It is a violent movie and very encouraging of being "stoned,' which happens to be the case for most of those who appear in the film. It is clear in this film who the bad guys are and who the good guys are, and both the good and bad guys take drugs. Seth Rogen, James Franco and Danny McBride play their parts as Dale, Saul and Red with great comic gusto, but the movie exists to attract anyone who is familiar with marihuana. It is essentially for everyone who has "been with someone who's brought weed or knows someone who's sold weed or gone and brought weed themselves' (Seth Rogen talking about the movie). The movie lives up to those words. A mitigating factor (if one can call it that) is that the two main characters (Dale and Saul) behave so insensibly and stupidly, they don't provide serious role models to anyone who wants to emulate them.
Making the drug culture funny and throwing violence into the mix seems a very manipulative way of fostering adolescent and adult appeal. Young people will try to gain access to the film and that is not going to be difficult; and some of them are bound to enjoy it for the wrong reasons. Laying the relevance of the movie to drug-taking aside, an aspect of the film which clearly justifies the film in the director's eyes is that it is also about the buddy system that accompanies the drug culture. The main thing that separates this film from other stoner movies is that it is about finding friendship - being chased helps to develop good relationships between guys and the final message is not on drugs, but on the value of male bonding (though the film provocatively and clumsily suggests many times that more than simple bonding might be at stake). Along the way, there are some impressive action sequences, especially a car chase scene involving two police vehicles and a very well choreographed shoot-out scene towards the end of the movie, which is staged to great effect.
There are some marvellous movies about drug-taking out there (e.g., Abel Ferrara's "Bad Lieutenant' which stars Harvey Keitel in a powerful redemptive role). There is no redemption from drugs in this film; enjoyment in them is taken too much for granted. But at least there is value found in bonding. In the final analysis, this is a smart film, well acted and confidently directed, but it remains riskily suggestive for those thinking about drugs, or wanting to take them.
Columbia Pictures.Out August 7
Peter W. Sheehan, Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting