“It’s like killing a unicorn… with like a bomb.” – Saul
Inspiration can strike anyone, anywhere, at any time. Take Hollywood producer Judd Apatow for example. One day he’s sitting at home watching 1993’s ‘True Romance’ on the boob tube, and suddenly a light bulb appears in a cartoonlike cloud over his head. Wouldn’t it be cool if a stoner like Floyd (Brad Pitt) from Tony Scott’s film was mixed up with some really bad dudes and had to hightail it out of his apartment? Sounds pretty crazy, huh?
Well, Apatow thought so too at first, but the more he thought about the idea, the more he liked it. So much so, he enlisted his longtime friends Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg who wrote ’Superbad’ to pen the screenplay--which was then snatched up by Sony Pictures after Rogen hit the big-time with ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ and ’Knocked Up.’ In the end, what seemed like a thought derived from tapping a bong turned out to be one of the most popular and talked about comedies of 2008—‘Pineapple Express.’
In the movie, Rogen plays Dale Denton, a process server whose daily routine alternates between putting on disguises in order to sneak up on and slap unsuspecting civilians with subpoenas or savoring the buzz of a well-rolled doobie. As soon as his stash is running low, he pays a visit to his dealer--a mild-mannered pothead named Saul (James Franco). On one particular afternoon, Saul sells Dale some of his new “exclusive” product that is the cream of the marijuana crop, a rare form of cannabis called Pineapple Express.
Later that evening, when Dale is smoking a joint in his car before delivering civil documents to the home of one Ted Jones (Gary Cole), a police cruiser pulls into the driveway causing him to instinctively fire his roach out the window. A few moments afterwards, Dale witnesses a gruesome murder. Dale flees the scene in a panic and heads to Saul’s to lay low for a while. The plot thickens, however, when he learns that Saul’s supplier is Red (Danny McBride), the middle-man connecting Saul to the drug kingpin in town, Ted Jones. Piecing together that Jones will be able to trace the roach back to them, Dale and Saul take off on a wacky adventure to save their necks, and maybe smoke a little weed, too.
After watching the first few minutes of ‘Pineapple Express,’ I couldn’t ignore this sinking feeling in my stomach, kind of like the awkwardness and dread of sitting in the dentist’s office waiting to be called in for a filling. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I thought the Item 9 flashback prologue, where the military tested out the effects of marijuana, missed the comedic mark completely. Don’t get me wrong, I like Bill Hader, but the opener felt like a bad ‘SNL’ sketch that went horribly wrong. I understand it was included to set the stage for what comes later on in the film, but for me it was a fumble that hit all the wrong chords.
Following the bizarre opener, I was relieved to see that things improved dramatically once Dale made it to Saul’s place. The entire atmosphere morphed from a silly ‘Austin Powers’-esque comedy to more of the grade-A quality instant classic that Apatow and Rogen usually deliver when they collaborate on a project together. What’s more, unlike their previous films, ‘Pineapple Express’ is packed with well choreographed action. The big sequences are the car chase and the final climatic showdown, but my favorite had to be the brawl between Dale, Saul, and Red at Red’s house. It was raw and vicious, and I had a hard time catching my breath I was laughing so hard.
The real magic, however, happens between Rogen and Franco, who have the ideal chemistry and complement each other perfectly. The interactions with them were priceless, especially whenever Saul said something ridiculous and threw Dale for a loop. That being said, while Rogen is great as always, if it wasn’t for Franco, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for this performance, the movie just wouldn’t have been the same. He creates a stoner character with innocence and heart that doesn’t feel like the typical cliché we’re used to seeing. To put it another way, Saul’s personality is genuine, almost as if we’ve known him for years.The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The 2-Disc Unrated Special Edition Blu-ray of ‘Pineapple Express’ contains both the theatrical version as well as an extended cut containing five additional minutes not seen in theaters. I’d recommend going with the extended version personally, since it adds a little more flavor, particularly the interactions between the hit men, and it’s not like it drags or anything.
Sony Pictures delivers ‘Pineapple Express’ on Blu-ray sporting a 1080p /AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.40:1 aspect ratio) that won’t blow you away like some releases, but it’s still excellent in my book.
Black levels are rich and dark, although there were one or two times where the night sky was more of a hazy navy or deep indigo rather than black. The picture is clear from any noticeable edge enhancement, noise, or artifacts and has a fair amount of depth. Grain is present throughout, but it’s very mild and isn’t an eyesore. Detail is also strong for the most part. While fleshtones were sometimes a little on the soft side, background detailing made up for it in spades. The various knickknacks in Saul’s apartment, the intricate brickwork in Jones’ mansion, and the floral arrangements in the courtyard of Saul’s “bubbie” were all very eye-catching. ‘Pineapple Express’ is one of those films where you notice something different with each viewing.
‘Pineapple Express’ features a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit) track that is very pleasing for this kind of film. Compared to other releases, I’d say the center channel was intentionally a notch or two higher than the norm to enhance and ensure crisp and clean dialogue. The rear channels remain dormant until called upon for duty during the action sequences—where they really get their chance to shine. Sometimes a tune from the soundtrack will fill the room carrying over to the rear speakers, but they were mostly reserved for surround activity such as police sirens and gunfire. The bass was strong as well, delivering solid rumbles during the climatic explosion.
The disc also has a French TrueHD 5.1 track, as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai, plus there are subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Indonesian, Korean, Chinese, and Thai.
’Pineapple Express’ comes with one of the largest assortments of bonus features I’ve ever seen on Blu-ray. It took me a good day or so to go through all of them, and there’s bound to be something for everyone.
Forgiving the lackluster prologue hiccup, ‘Pineapple Express’ is another winner from Apatow and company. The humor—especially Franco’s lines—are often priceless and worthy of repeat viewings, and there’s a nice balance of action, making the movie one hell of a ride. The video/audio is excellent on this Blu-ray, and the extensive bonus features makes the release even better. Of course, if you’re not a fan of ’Superbad’ the style probably isn’t up your alley, but for everyone else ‘Pineapple Express’ comes recommended.