Just when I thought the Apatow entourage was getting tiresome to watch, something like Pineapple Express comes along to reel me back in!
Good stoner movies are few and far between. Those that usually attempt to create a good stoner flick either fail miserably, or create a product that's 'just alright'.
I was fairly intrigued to see that Rogen and Franco were teaming up with Director David Gordon Green, and that the idea was to basically make a movie with a lot of weed, and a lot of guns. This had every potential in the world to be a ho-hum offering, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Dale Denton (Rogen) lives his life as a fairly happy dude. He's got a hot girlfriend that's still in high school, he makes a living by dressing up in various uniforms to sneak into places of business to deliver legal documents, and he spends a fair amount of his spare time getting high.
Dale stops by the home of his drug dealer, Saul Silver (Franco), for an ordinary exchange of money and pot, and he's in for one hell of a treat because the Pineapple Express rolled into town! It's the finest herb in all the land, and it's incredibly rare. So rare in fact, Saul is the only drug dealer on the 'market' with this particular kind of ganj. What Mr. Denton doesn't know however, is that the best weed he's ever smoked, is the weed that's most likely going to get him killed.
Sitting in his car and smoking a doob, Dale witnesses a murder inside the home of the next person he's supposed to 'serve'. In a panic, he throws his joint out the window, and gets the hell out of Dodge in a hurry.
Wasting no time, Dale runs back to Saul's place to hide from anyone that may have followed him.
The stoners put their paranoia hats on, and come to the conclusion that ruthless killers may be coming to keep them quiet about the murder, all thanks to the skunky evidence Dale left behind.
Is it a reach for the plot? Sure! I highly doubt anyone is going to pick a joint up off the road and identify its breed. However, that's the pill that we have to swallow in order to let the rest of the movie progress, and it's a pill I was more than willing to swallow. The beginning of the film already sold me on the characters played by Seth Rogen and James Franco, as well as the quality of the comedy I was in store for.
This is a stoner film through and through, there's no doubt about it. Pack up your bong, and more than likely you're going to find Pineapple Express to be an instant classic. However, I base the merit of any film on a normal movie-going experience, not how good it may be under the influence of marijuana, or even alcohol!
I know I'm probably hanging myself for even saying this, but I think a movie like Half Baked is a good example of an overrated stoner flick. Under the influence, it was a jewel, a diamond in the rough! Sober, I personally felt it was nothing more than an average comedy, if that.
Does Pineapple Express transcend the 'average when sober' dilemma, or does it excel as a movie overall?
The film firmly makes its statement right from the beginning: "I'm going to be damn funny!" The first 15 minutes of the film are enough to bust out the laughs the rest of the movie consistently delivers, as well as getting us to know, and like, the main characters.
Seth Rogen wasn't exactly diversifying himself for his role as Dale Denton. If you've seen him in anything since The 40 Year Old Virgin, then you already know what to expect. This doesn't take away from the film or even the character of Dale, as it's obvious this role was crafted for Rogen.
James Franco was the major surprise however! We've seen him act like a weed smoking teen in Freaks and Geeks, but since then, he's done less than 'wow' audiences with his acting in the Spider-Man trilogy.
It's a good thing Franco went back to comedy, because as Saul, he's perfected playing a stoner that's real and likeable! Saul was crafted by Franco's acting skills with precision, finally giving us a character that was high, but without being a stereotype. Saul was as real as anyone you might run into yourself!
In Pineapple Express, you have one of the best duos on screen in recent memory. They build their relationship on film as a couple of care-free stoners, and spend a good amount of time being paranoid as they're being hunted down. Right when that routine starts to get old, they have some friendship troubles that add a new dimension of depth to their characters. It would be nice to see these two team up again as the same characters.
Honorable mention also goes to Danny R. McBride as 'Red', a supporting role that was able to steal most of the scenes he was in.
It isn't just the acting that worked for Pineapple Express however. What made this such an enjoyable experience was the fact that it wasn't a one trick pony.
The beginning of the film would lead you to believe you're strictly going to be watching a stoner comedy, but the entire world gets turned upside down at once, paving the way for elements of conspiracies, gang wars, action, and even some BFFF (Best Friends For ****in' Ever) turmoil.
At the hands of the wrong person, these elements combined seemed like the perfect recipe for an overzealous director who was biting off way more than they could chew! Fortunately, all of these elements were balanced enough to make an incredibly entertaining movie.
You're going to be expected to take some pretty big leaps in logic from time to time, but this movie keeps producing full laughs and good action, so you'll hardly have time to nitpick over it!
The only problem I see with Pineapple Express, is that it's possible it won't reach out to everyone. Some people are going to watch this movie and find it worthy as a rental, and others are going to rave that it's the best stoner movie of all time.
In my opinion however, it was certainly a solid effort that kept me hooked throughout its entirety while being sober! A lot of care went into the script, the acting, and the directing. This film wasn't just an excuse for a money grab in Hollywood, it's actually worthy enough to be called a 'fim'.
This release does include the theatrical version, as well as an unrated cut that's 5 minutes longer. Anything from the Apatow crew usually comes off as incredibly long and drawn out in their extended form, so I was expecting the tight theatrical cut to be ripped to shreds in the unrated version.
Fortunately, the extended cut actually seemed like a seamless experience as well! If you're scared of the butchered extended cuts from films like The 40 Year Old Virign or Knocked Up, you can put those fears away here!
Pineapple Express is in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1, and is encoded at 1080p using the AVC codec. You'd be hard pressed to find anything to complain about here. The colors are saturated extremely well, and the skin tones are accurate. The depth of the colors is enhanced by a very nice contrast level, partly due to the impressive black levels that remain consistent in both day and night scenes. Sharpness looks natural, there's a very fine amount of detail, and it all comes together to provide a considerable amount of depth. There are no digital artifacts to speak of, or other such video blunders such as EE or DNR. You really can't ask for anything more than this!
Presented here, is a very nice Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track. The positioning of the audio is going to vary throughout the film. There are many parts of the movie that are dialogue driven, while the other half the film is loaded with action. The dialogue always comes across clean and clear, never sounding tinny or never leaping off the rails for any hissing or pops. There's some very faint directional audio in the background for the dialogue scenes, but that all changes once the action kicks in. The action comes across impressively deep, using all the channels in your surround system to make you feel like you're truly in the midst of it all. This is a very fine auditory experience, and only helps to show how much effort went into the production of this film.
Also included: French Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish 5.1, Portuguese 5.1, Thai 5.1. Subtitles available in English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, and Indonesian.
Cast and Crew Audio Commentary - Judd Apatow (Producer), David Gordon Green (Director), Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Ed Begley Jr., and Rosie Perez - Now fairly common for a film that involves Apatow, the commentary is loaded with people to keep the conversation fun. The drawback to this formula however, is the fact that everyone talks about the great times they had while working on the film, instead of actually talking about the production process.
Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes/Phone Booth - These are listed as four separate features, but they all fall in the same category. The content itself is funny, but the theatrical and extended cuts are seamless enough. I can understand why certain cuts were made, but this supplement is still worth watching.
The Making of Pineapple Express - The information that was missing from the commentary starts rolling out on this extra. We find out how Rogen and Franco met, as well as a lot of background information as to how the idea for this film came about.
The Action of Pineapple Express - Moving away from the ideas behind the film, this featurette strictly focuses on telling the audience how the action scenes were crafted.
Line-O-Rama - A common featurette for pictures Apatow is involved in, we're treated to a few minutes of improvisational dialogue that were recorded for the film.
Direct-O-Rama - When things are scripted however, Director David Gordon Green still has the daunting task of telling the actors how they should deliver the lines, and we see him do just that here.
Gag Reel - The outtakes here are absolutely hilarious, definitely check this featurette out!
Item 9 - This acts as an additional supplement for the opening black and white scene to the film. Another one not to be missed!
Saul's Apartment - This appears to be one of those infamous featurettes from the Apatow clan that use a set from the film to introduce well known faces from Hollywood into the mix. You'll see those familiars pop in to Saul's apartment to say hello, and as always, this fake extra is an absolute riot!
Raw Footage - There's a lot of footage here in its unedited form to gaze upon. You'll notice quite a few clips were used in the end product, but this featurette gives you a good idea of how much is filmed, and how much actually gets used in the end.
Begley's Best - Ed Begley Jr. is here in this commercial trying to sell cleaning products. It's fairly funny, although the relevance this feature has to the film overall is a bit of a stretch.
Red and Jessica's Guide to Marriage - This is another fake extra made specifically for the at home audience, and its relevance is also toting the line. Unfortunately, I felt this extra was not only irrelevant, but not much of a laugh either.
Injury Report - Another less than relevant extra, some injuries on the set are blown way out of proportion to provide some comedic effect. It didn't really work so well.
Stuntmaster Ken - I'm getting fairly tired of mentioning fake featurettes, but it seems we have yet another one. An actor tries to get his 15 minutes by taking credit for the stunt work in the film.
Rehearsal Footage - Now, here's some relevance! We get to see Rogen warming up his acting skills!
First Table Read - Everyone sits down to flesh out a portion of the script while reading it. This determines if the material is good, or if it should be scrapped. I would recommend watching this, as you'll be able to hear a piece of the movie in its most primitive form!
Comic-Con Panel - This is pretty funny. After the cast discusses the film in a comedic manner, some hired actors come up to the Comic-Con question mic. They barrage the actors on the panel with some extremely silly questions. I recommend watching this!
Red Band Trailer - Best. Trailer. EVARR!!
Also included is a digital copy of the film.
The extras are fairly exhausting on this release, but that's not to say they're all gravy. I like the idea of a fake featurette as a surprise, but this has seemingly become a standard practice for films produced by Apatow! More time gets put into creating these phony featurettes, than giving us the skinny on what goes on behind the scenes! With so many people participating on a commentary track, you would think you'd have a great wealth of information coming at you, especially with the impressive amount of extras there are listed on the back of the Blu-ray case. I firmly believe in the concept of quality over quantity, so how 'bout it guys?
Stoner movies have a tendency to usually be average, or worse. Thanks to some fantastic writing, incredible acting by Franco and other supporting roles, as well as some truly excellent direction, Pineapple Express knows how to roll! Instead of being a clichéd film only the stoners could appreciate, this film is one that's actually worthy of the word 'film', being an all around enjoyable comedy that a very broad audience can enjoy.
I would highly recommend this Blu-ray for anyone out there who wants a fine comedy. Granted, this film isn't going to be for everyone, but I'd put money on more people enjoying this movie than not. The audio and visual quality is superb, and there are a ton of extras on this release, albeit a little less relevant than it should be.