Bong rips into action flick

In “Pineapple Express,” Rogan and Franco make funnies, then beat people up

The title “Pineapple Express” evokes a kind of whimsical travel documentary that follows the lives of a few ragtag backpackers on their quest for the perfect fruit. And, in many ways, this movie is exactly that. But replace the word “backpacker” with the term “pothead,” add some satirical action routines and a number of unflinchingly humorous gun fights, and you get a bit closer to what this movie is really about. The result is a boneheaded hybrid genre – the stoner-action movie. Finally, it’s here.

“Pineapple Express”
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Starring: Seth Rogan, James Franco, Danny R. McBride
Rated: R
Showing at: Local theaters

Veteran toker Dale Denton (Seth Rogan) sits in his car all day while working as a process server who hands out subpoenas. To busy himself, he smokes joint after joint while stalking people who are avoiding the law. All this pot smoking puts Denton on frequent quests to buy weed, and, like many a cannabis consumer, he has a stable dealer – an affable giggler named Saul Silver (played by a perfectly ditzy James Franco) . Together they are an immature and inventively humorous duo. Franco plays a convincing bud dealer – often too convincing, as though he’s merely behaving normally, but that’s part of his charm. Rogan is as silly as always. He brings to this movie the same honest persona that made his character in “Knocked Up” so charming. Both men are dolts, yet somehow they’re likeable. They’re dumb, but not stupid.

But when Dale becomes a witness to a murder – and then a target himself – the high times are no longer what they used to be as Denton and Silver are forced to go on the run. Together the men continue smoking themselves into oblivion, even as the movie becomes action-based.

The majority of the plot is purposefully campy and over-the-top, like when the pair gruesomely attacks a fellow pothead named Red. The threesome fight one another to within an inch of life, and it’s supposed to be funny. Sometimes it is, but how funny can brain bleeding and gunshot wounds to the abdomen get? Apparently, to fully understand that kind of humor, you have to view the movie in a reality as absent as our heroes’.

Horrible violence aside, these stoners are super funny. Occasionally the abundance of pothead logic – which is expert, by the way – gets a little tiresome, and you might feel as though you’re hanging out with a couple half-baked friends who think their every word is the most profound utterance ever. Everyone’s been there – and what’s funny at first slowly loses its kick. But the movie morphs and re-energizes. The buddy film at the beginning turns into a kicky farce on action movies, one complete with unlikely explosions and superhero mess-ups. Imagine Cheech and Chong taking up crime-fighting, or James Bond taking a bong rip midway through a hostage rescue. The difference is that these guys know just how ridiculous they are.

The movie, like any Johnny Pot-user, takes its sweet time going places. That seems to be Rogan’s foggy nature (he cowrote the film along with Evan Goldberg, his writing partner from “Superbad”) ,but the pace is frustrating, and the film takes almost two hours to land at the ridiculous grand finale. It’s the type of scene you’d expect to see at the end of an “Austin Powers” movie, not at the climax of this Judd Apatow production. The stoned conversations are sidesplitting, yes, but you have to wonder why we’re on this long of a car ride with such inebriated drivers.