2013 FF: James Franco has proven to be an incredibly versatile actor. From being a spoiled rich kid turned anti-hero in the “Spider-Man” series to humanity’s last hope in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” but this flashback marked the first major comedy of his career proving that he could succeed in slacker humor films as well.
Your love of “Pineapple Express” will largely depend on how funny you find a movie with 85 percent of the jokes based on smoking weed.
For the 15-percenters a lot of the film is going to feel very silly, crammed with potty humor and overly long for such a simple subject matter.
Dale (Seth Rogen, “Knocked Up”) is a working slacker. In between his numerous weed- smoking sessions, he serves court summons and hangs out with his high school girlfriend Angie (Amber Heard). His true love though is lighting up, which explains his quasi-friendship with his dealer, Saul (James Franco, “Spider-Man 3”), who is rarely lucid. The fact that Saul hooks him up with exclusive weed like the Pineapple Express doesn’t hurt either.
Franco has done his share of dramatic and action films so seeing him as a goofy stoner is a fun change of pace for him. Rogen however, is essentially playing the same character he’s played in “Knocked Up” and “Superbad” and his shtick is growing stale.
On his latest job, Dale witnesses a murder, but can’t manage to get away before the killer, Ted (Gary Cole), spots him. Rightfully fearing for his life, Dale turns to Saul for assistance and maybe one more hit of the good stuff.
“Express” is in every sense your typical buddy comedy, but in Rogen and co-writer Evan Goldberg’s hands, it feels like a less funny stoner version of their previous collaboration “Superbad” with an added emphasis on outlandish situations. That includes frequent groin punches, a slow-motion dance number, vomiting and heavy use of the “f” word. After a while you’ll wonder if that’s all they’ve got to bring to the table.
Rogen is part of the Judd Apatow (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin”) camp and like his mentor, Rogen favors stories that are longer than the material really allows.
There’s some interesting ideas such as the two mismatched thugs (Craig Robinson and Kevin Corrigan) trying to track down our witless heroes, Ted’s rivalry with a Chinese drug gang and Dale trying to win over Angie’s parents, but they are largely squandered with cheap jokes and minimal effort.
Fortunately Danny McBride (“Drillbit Taylor”) is able to lend some welcome support and makes his cowardly drug dealer Red a more consistently entertaining character than the leads.
Director David Gordon Green (“Snow Angels”) needed to take a firmer grasp on the reins and cut some of the nonessential scenes. Two hours is far too long for a comedy and that extra half-hour really stalls “Express,” especially when the jokes are this inconsistent.
“Express” isn’t the best comedy of the year — that distinction still goes to “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” — but fans of weed movies like “Half Baked” should find plenty to be high about with this joint.
Rating: 4 out of 10