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Pineapple Express

What Has Red Eyes and a Machine Gun?

Who knew the players involved in "Freaks and Geeks" (both in front of and behind the camera) would one day rule Hollywood and become box office gold? For those of us who fumed and fussed when the show was abruptly cancelled, we are finally getting our retribution. Pineapple Express is the second film penned by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, following 2007’s hit Superbad, and already the third film from Judd Apatow this year (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Don’t Mess with the Zohan). As with anything these guys touch, they have once again struck gold.

Starring "Freaks" alums turned bona fide stars Seth Rogen as Dale Denton, a process server by day and a day and James Franco as Saul Silver, his panama pants wearing drug dealer, the film not only mocks the buddy-action canon but is itself part of the tradition, complete with a theme song by none other than 80s legends Huey Lewis and the News. Like last year’s Hot Fuzz, the film’s intentions are to poke fun at the action genre while still existing as a part of it and that’s where both succeed and come out even better than those that they are indebted to. It’s like Scary Movie but with plot, character development and intelligence.

The two stoners only come into contact when Dale’s stash is dry. He sees their relationship as strictly business, while Saul just wants a friend. After Dale witnesses a murder while tokin’ up in his car, the two are soon caught up in a race for their lives. One of the shooters, Ted Jones (Gary Cole) is actually Saul’s dealer and when he finds Dale’s ditched joint he recognizes the rare pineapple express strain and sets out to murder the pair along with female cop, Carol (the surprisingly subdued, yet effective Rosie Perez).

Soon the “stoner movie” turns into a full fledged, albeit light-hearted, shoot ‘em up as the two end up on the lam. The plot seems so ordinary that you have to wonder why no one has crossed the two genres before. Besides the obvious piss-your-pants humor supplied by Rogen, Franco and a whole cast of characters including break out star Danny McBride (The Fist-Foot Way) as the duo’s sidekick Red, and Ted’s henchmen, Craig Robinson ("The Office") and Apatow regular Kevin Corrigan (Superbad, The Department), you get a superb action flick complete with car chases, trashed houses and the dealing of drugs to minors.

Probably the most surprising aspect of the film was Rogen and Co.’s decision to hand pick indie-king David Gordon Green (Snow Angels, All the Real Girls) as the director. Having never handled a big budget film (well maybe medium budget) or even an action film, Green pulls it off with the finesse of a seasoned pro. He brings a true filmmaker’s vision to the fold as well as a visual style from his resident cinematographer Tim Orr. Already a rising star, this is sure to put Green at the top of many lists in Hollywood.

Yes, this could be classified as a “stoner comedy” but unlike so many others of the genre it’s more than just dozens of pot jokes. What Rogen, Franco and Green pull of is a solid comedic-action film whose heroes just happen to be stoned the entire time.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars