Fear not, ye man-children fans of the Judd Apatow niche of self-aware, turbo-nerd guy humor. Pineapple Express is hilarious, and pretty much the entire way through it. As written by Apatow and the Superbad screenwriting team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Express may set a new record for the number of throw-away jokes you can cram into 111 minutes, hit-and-run punch lines destined to be memorized by a generation of young men. (Much love to any script that knows how to use Godspeed You Black Emperor and the Shins in a joke.) It's a movie that finally answers that age-old question: What would happen if Cheech and Chong made 48 Hrs.?
Yes, like Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright's 2007 Hot Fuzz, Express is a loving, knowing mash note to 1980s buddy action flicks, with roughly 25,000 more reefer jokes. Dale Denton (Rogen) is a 25-year-old process server--the kind of man who disguises himself as a doctor to serve a surgeon in an operating room--who has a thing for teenage pussy and dreams of becoming a talk-radio host. His 18-year-old high school girlfriend, Angie (Amber Heard), wants him to come meet her parents (Ed Begley Jr. and Nora Dunn) so they'll love him as much as she does, and he keeps putting it off because he has to serve some poor soul or score weed from his dealer, Saul (scene-stealer James Franco). But when Dale accidentally witnesses a murder while smoking some super-rare, super-potent marijuana--the titular pineapple express, dope that can only be traced back to Saul--he and his not-really-a-friend dope connection go into hiding in the sunny, pedestrian California hamlet where they live.
The plot is short-bus simple for a reason: Rogen, Franco, and the rest of Express' cast--especially The Foot Fist Way's Danny McBride as a drug middleman--try to make a movie whose dialogue is nothing but jokes. That they almost succeed is a testament to director David Gordon Green fusing this movie's silliness into something both accessible and personal. Visually, Express is so basic it looks like it could have been shot alongside Fletch, but its action scenes are almost as graphically preposterous as Commando. As a result, the movie's tone suggests that it doesn't really know what it wants to be, but it moves so briskly it never gives you much time to notice.
And since it takes place in a movieland Apatown, its lone theme--if it can be called such--is male friendship, the kind that sneaks up on twentysomething men who are too busy thinking only about themselves to notice, you know, that there's a whole world around them. So, yes, Pineapple Express unabashedly brings the funny--and in the process celebrates that great American pastime of white men not having to try too hard to think well of themselves.