Pineapple Express

At its core, the latest, and best, from the Judd Apatow comedy shop is a pretty straightforward 1980s-style Hollywood action flick. You got this one guy, Dale (Seth Rogen), who unwittingly witnesses a murder being committed by a drug lord (Gary Cole) and a dirty policewoman (Rosie Perez). Thus, along with his drug dealer Saul (James Franco) and middle man Red (Danny McBride), Dale finds himself on the run from both gangsters and cops. Fights, car chases and shoot-outs ensue.

Now, the twist is that Dale, Saul and Red are not badass action heroes, they’re all too ordinary guys whose idea of excitement usually doesn’t go further than lighting up a joint. As such, “Pineapple Express” is to action movies what “The Big Lebowski” was to film noir: a brilliant pastiche of the genre in which every classic set-up goes spectacularly off-track because the protagonists are always high! Your mileage may vary, but I found it endlessly funny to watch these guys coming up with the stupidest ideas, digging themselves deeper and deeper into trouble.

As written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who previously penned “Superbad” together, “Pineapple Express” is not only a study in what not to do when you find yourselves in life-threatening situations, it’s also about the ups and downs of male camaraderie. This leads to some ridiculous yet oddly sincere emotional outbursts, as the three central characters alternate between expressing their love and their hatred for each other.

Meanwhile, the film grows increasingly manic, it’s one damn thing after another, and there’s more and more over the top violence. Because let it be said, “Pineapple Express” holds no punches: the fights are more intense and rough than in most straight action movies, even though, at the same time, they’re totally goofy, like a cross between the back alley brawl in “They Live”, the trailer home brawl in “Kill Bill Vol. 2” and the hotel room scuffle in “Borat”!

All of this is deftly orchestrated by, of all people, David Gordon Green, the genius director of artsy, lyrical films like “George Washington” and “Snow Angels”. Then again, when you think about it, in all these films, there’s always been some quirky, whimsical, goofy touches. Heck, Danny McBride’s first big screen role was in Green’s “All the Real Girls”, as a character named Bust-Ass! Still, it’s quite exhilarating to see the filmmaker not only make “Pineapple Express” more visually appealing and organic than you’d usually expect from a movie like this, but to also fully embrace the comic mayhem and truly make it come alive.

Of course, most people won’t come out of the theater talking about how well shot and cut it was, but about the outrageously funny back and forth between old “Freaks and Geeks” buddies Rogen and Franco, the scene-stealing McBride, the odd couple of hitmen played by Craig Robinson and Kevin Corrigan, the Bill Hader opening cameo… In short, about how this is, by far, the most hilarious movie of the year.