Among its achievements, Pineapple Express makes explicit much of the underlying homoeroticism inherent in the buddy movie. While films like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid hide the latent gayness of its central relationship beneath a carefully calculated surface of good-natured hetero tomfoolery (with female love interests as decoys), David Gordon Green’s film places these concerns front and center. Which isn’t to say that either of its principal characters is signified as gay—indeed Dale (Seth Rogen) is given an 18-year-old girlfriend while his drug dealer, Saul (a pitch-perfect James Franco), waxes poetic about “sucking on titties”—but through a series of increasingly unmistakable double entendres and a warm-hearted camaraderie whose occasionally crude guy-speak can’t hide an underlying tenderness, the film brings to the fore the tacit assumptions of the buddy movie and winds up offering a useful critique of the genre.
Following the generic template of the buddy film, Pineapple Express‘s principal relationship is forged in the heat of the battle. The movie is also, as advertised, a funnier-than-average stoner comedy; its action turns on a single marijuana joint, loaded with the recherché strain that gives the picture its title. When Dale accidentally witnesses a murder and is observed in turn by the perp, he leaves behind a telltale roach which, given the exclusivity of the strain, ties him and Saul to the scene. Pursued by the murderer, who happens to be Las Vegas’s number-one drug dealer, Dale and Saul shuffle around town, evading danger, getting stoned and drawing ever closer together.
In a moment of reconciliation following the relationship’s central moment of crisis, Saul sums up their friendship in explicitly sexual terms: “They say never to dip your pen in the company ink,” he says, referencing the ban on a dealer becoming friends with his client, “but I’m totally glad I dipped in your ink, bro.” With Rogen playing straight man to Franco’s touchingly naïve pothead, the two form a finely matched, not-quite-odd couple whose increasing emotional proximity is signaled by ever-more-frank expressions of homosexual longing. So when the two men help each other shuck off their handcuffs during the film’s climax and Green plays the scene as an explicit approximation of intercourse, it comes off as not only deft comic staging but an appropriate consummation to the characters’ budding relationship.
Setting aside his trademark small town milieu and pseudo-poetic aural/visual flourishes, Green enters fully and deferentially into Judd Apatow territory, and if there’s any question as to who the real auteur at work is here, it’s quickly answered in favor of the comedic producer, his sour-sweet sensibility outweighing the few familiar visual touches (flashy scene transitions out of Undertow and a few self-consciously lyrical framings) that Green brings to the proceedings. That said, the director seems firmly on board with the material and stages the film’s numerous action sequences with a sure hand, playing them for both well-timed laughter and blood-boiling impact and relying as much on his feel for a given scene’s spatial organization as on rapid-fire cutting in achieving his effect. In one bravura set piece, a tightly staged car chase is offset with just the right amount of absurdist distancing as Saul navigates his way through the Vegas streets with one leg wedged through his car’s windshield.
Only in the climactic showdown does Green’s imagination show any signs of lagging and his violence-as-comedy shtick (the grosser the gag, the louder the laughter) begin to wear thin. Until then, the film remains as assured in its comedic smarts (even if those smarts are often placed in the service of some rather crude yuks) as in its dramatic stagings. But what finally makes the film stand out from its lowbrow brethren is its warm-hearted treatment of its central relationship, a relationship it isn’t afraid to define in explicitly gay terms.
The image looks good, with bright colors, decent black levels, and minimal edge haloing. Sound during the action sequences is great-and probably greater if you're high, which, let's face it, you probably will be.
The first disc includes both the theatrical and extended versions of the film, a series of extended and alternate scenes (the most notable being a conversation between Seth Rogen and James Franco about how girls never buy weed), a gag reel, and a 21-minute making-of featurette. The audio commentary track is crowded (Rogen, Franco, Ed Begley Jr., Danny McBride, director David Gordon Green, and screenwriter Evan Goldberg) but hilarious and probably worth the price of the DVD alone. About 17 minutes into the commentary, scene-stealer Craig Robinson and Rosie Perez walk into the room, followed by producer Shauna Robertson and Kevin Corrigan via speakerphone, prompting Rogen to aptly liken the situation to a morning radio show. Two of the funniest moments are when Corrigan, who just got back from the dentist after trying to bite open a FedEx package, is asked what he's up to and he says he's breaking in a key ring, and when Perez reveals to the entire world that she witnessed LL Cool J threaten to punch his wife in the pussy (oddly mirroring a scene in the film in which Perez gets kicked in hers).
Those extras would be enough to make a decent DVD package, but disc two includes three deleted scenes; four additional extended and alternate scenes (the best of which is an extended scene of Rogen and Franco bartering with those foulmouthed school kids); the 12-minute "The Action of Pineapple Express," which covers the stunt work, car chases, and fight choreography; a raw version of the phone booth scene with Green reading the part of Rogen's teenage girlfriend; "Line-O-Rama" and "Direct-O-Rama," which assemble different takes and cuts of various scenes; "Item 9," a mock documentary of interviews of participants in marijuana experiments from 1937; "Saul's Apartment," which consists of not-very-funny vignettes from said apartment; "Begley's Best," a short, head-scratchingly pointless featurette about Begley's line of eco-friendly cleaning products; a kind of dumb featurette titled "Red and Jessica's Guide to Marriage"; "Injury Report," which documents the actors' injuries during the making of the film; "Stuntmaster Ken," a featurette devoted to the chief stuntman on the film; more raw footage from the shoot; rehearsal footage; footage from the first table read (also included in the featurette on the first disc); Comic-Con panel footage; an R-rated, "Red Band" trailer for the film; and a digital copy of the film.
There's plenty here to keep the attention of both stoners and cinephiles alike.