After seeing and loving Tropic Thunder I figured Pineapple Express (which opens one week before Thunder, on 8.6) couldn’t be quite as funny, despite the many months of advance praise. I trusted the buzz about James Franco being a revelation, but that “meh” Variety review by Justin Chang lowered the expectation factor a notch or two. I finally saw it last Monday night at the Grove, in any event, and about 20 or 30 minutes in I said to myself, “Wow, this is a wee bit funnier than Ben Stiller‘s movie.”

One reason is that Pineapple Express is a classic Cheech-and-Chong-meet- Laurel-and-Hardy stoner comedy. Thunder has a flaky-surreal, stoned-in-Vietnam weirdness thing going on, but Pineapple Express is just funny-funny in a character-chemistry way, although it takes a weirdly violent detour over the last half hour or so. They’re both great rides but their funny bones have different DNA.
The reason for the infectious Pineapple humor is the dumb rapport between Franco’s Saul, a low-rent pot dealer, and Seth Rogen‘s Dale Denton, a 25 year-old joint-sucking process server who’s reasonably bright but is also fairly silly and clueless at times, especially when the heat’s on. The best parts of this film are simply about Rogen and Franco talking to each other in a room. Their back-and-forths are beautifully acted. Franco plays the sweet, not-educated, not-very-bright Stan Laurel character and Seth Rogen does the blustery, somewhat more assertive but almost-as-clueless Oliver Hardy thing. Some of their scenes together are inspired. I was levitating out of my seat.
I also love how even the bad guys in this film (i.e., big-time drug dealers and their gun-toting goons) are given quirks, personalities, back-stories, odd traits and whatnot. Everybody has a bit of a story to tell and some weirdness to spread around.
I have to split for the afternoon, but I’ll have more to say about Pineapple Express over the coming days. It’s easily the best Judd Apatow-produced comedy since Superbad. It almost erased my memories of Jason Siegel‘s jiggly man-boobs in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. If it’s legit to suggest Robert Downey, Jr.’s performance in Tropic Thunder is Oscar-worthy (and I do feel that way), it also has to be cool to talk about Franco in the same light. As a Best Supporting Actor contender, I mean. The man is dead perfect in the role. It’s easily the best thing he’s done since that TNT James Dean biopic…what was that, seven years ago?
I was interviewed Monday morning by a Washington Post writer about stoner comedies, and today she wrote back to ask my feelings about Pineapple Express. “The first three quarters makes for a bona fide classic — I would go so far as to say legendary — stoner comedy,” I wrote back.

The first two thirds of Pineapple Express is a classic — I would go so far as to say legendary — stoner comedy. Absolutely inspired, Laurel and Hardy-level stuff. (James Franco being the sweet, uneducated, not very bright Stan Laurel and Seth Rogen being the blustery, somewhat more assertive, almost-as-clueless Oliver Hardy.) Laugh-out-loud funny.
Monica Hesse wrote:
> So, what did you think of Pineapple Express? Pure stoner comedy?
> Better/worse than predecessors? Where does it fall into line?