Pineapple Express a hilarious caricature of the modern drug industry

Whenever drugs emerge as a topic of discussion in the news there’s always at least one social conservative talking head determined to force a connection between drugs and violence. Of course saying that the drug world doesn’t contain some uncommonly brutal folks would be very naive but anyone who’s ever met a frequent marijuana user knows that they’re a pretty far cry from the umbrella-clubbing sociopath at the end of Reefer Madness. Once again proving that they’re the cleverest comic filmmakers working in Hollywood right now it’s exactly this prejudice that Judd Apatow’s band of fools exploit with their usual bombast in Pineapple Express.

Opening on a 1950s sci-fi riff that shows marijuana being developed as a failed means to placate soldiers to their superior officers writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (who last collaborated on Superbad ) set their sights on the public perception of their drug of choice from the start. Though there’s a superficial connection between this opening scene and the location of the film’s climax it’s clear that this is a film made by potheads who are upset by the fact that recreational use of a drug that’s been shown to be harmless by a long verifiable history of government-sponsored research technically makes them criminals. They’re dealing with it the same way they deal with all problems — by getting high and laughing at it.

Though director David Gordon Green’s ( Snow Angels George Washington ) blend of action and stoner humour isn’t quite seamless that’s kind of the point. The sudden turns away from green-smoke conspiracy theories toward scenes of extreme violence only serve to illustrate their unlikeliness — even more so when the silly conspiracy theories are casually confirmed by the villains a few minutes later. The action set pieces are infused with Looney Tunes surreality and while they never reach the satirical heights of Hot Fuzz (where the climax sees the hero ride into town on a white horse with shotguns akimbo) they do manage to illuminate their own contrivance while still entertaining the action buff sitting two rows back.

Pineapple Express is a bold stroke for everyone involved. The Apatow crew prove that their casual wit has mobility outside of a pure comedy genre flick and Gordon Green has proved his directorial versatility to say the least. While the larger statement on violence and the drug trade isn’t quite as subversive as it promises initially it provides more than enough subtext to keep the structure from wobbling under pressure from the hilariously awkward gun fighting and ironic(?) homoerotic innuendo. It’s almost too bad that Rogen and Goldberg forgot what they were saying halfway through their sentence as a witty film that pokes fun at the moral debate surrounding marijuana could have been legitimately culturally relevant today. Then again any gutsy definitive statement would betray the movie’s consistent portrayal of the stoner as goofy docile and (mostly) harmless.