THE MOVIE All love for last week's Academy Awards nominations singling out some deserving strong performances in lesser-known movies--especially Melissa Leo's powerful turn in Frozen River--but the real shocker was Robert Downey Jr.'s supporting nomination for Tropic Thunder. Not because it was a poor performance, more because the Oscars don't always spotlight comedic turns. Too bad the Academy overlooked an equally deserving comedic performance in a movie just as ridiculous. James Franco's Saul Silver in David Gordon Green's The Pineapple Express, released earlier this month on DVD, is the sort of character that way too easily becomes a flimsy Saturday Night Live sketch flogging a punch line to death. Franco, though, turns Saul--a burned out, kinda lame-brained, pot dealer--into an incorrigibly endearing burned out, kinda lame-brained, pot dealer, which makes all the difference. Express somehow juggles its anarchic main story with a subtle touch of a nearly childlike friendship, and without Franco, that secondary aspect doesn't work at all.
That's because the movie's main thrust is so ludicrous. Express is a stoner action comedy, wherein one of Saul's customers--process server Dale (Seth Rogen)--gets into hot water with the kingpin dealer (Gary Cole) who supplies Saul's stash. Throw in a crooked cop (Rosie Perez), Dale's high school girlfriend (Amber Heard), some criminal muscle (Kevin Corrigan and Craig Robinson), the certifiably daft Danny McBride as a middle-man, and some Asian gangs, and Express becomes a riotous hoot of expected reefer jokes and gunplay. It's stupid, intended to be so, and the entire cast is having a ball with it.
Director Green capably navigates that action, but it's the smaller moments that make Express such a disarming delight: Saul and Dale goofing off in the woods, or Saul's repeated sweet dealings with his grandmother keeps Express from flying off completely into Scary Movie lampoon, grounding the comic-book antics in something that feels closer to actual people. And to do that Franco has to make a stereotype feel real--and he makes it look easy.
THE DISC This DVD release includes the theatrical version and an extended unrated cut, but, truthfully, when watching them back to back nothing much stood out. The disk also includes a making of featurette, extended and alternate scenes, and a pretty funny gag reel. But the audio commentary for this--featuring producer Judd Apatow, Rogen and his co-screenwriter Evan Goldberg, Franco, McBride, co-star Ed Begley Jr., and director Green--is painfully funny. They somewhat address the movie, but it soon becomes a game to see who can make the funniest jokes. Why are there no heroin comedies? one of them asks early on. Good question.