On the surface, James Franco and Seth Rogen could not be less alike. One’s Harry Osborne, known for his brooding and good looks, and the other is a pudgy Canadian known for his love of marijuana and foul-mouthed comedies. However, those familiar with the canon of uber-producer Judd Apatow would remind you that Franco and Rogen both made their names in the little-seen but much-loved dramedy Freaks and Geeks. Since then Franco and Rogen have both shot to stardom, but apparently neither forgot their roots, as they’re together again.
Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) is a process server. If you haven’t seen the Matthew Perry vehicle Serving Sara (hey, it has Bruce Campbell in it, how can I not watch it?) and are unfamiliar with what a process server does, basically they track people down and give them subpoenas to appear in court. Nobody likes process servers, which is one of the many reasons slacker Dale smokes pot all day. He buys his pot from his permanently fried dealer, Saul Silver (James Franco).
Dale is very much living his life on autopilot. That is, until he witnesses the local drug kingpin Ted (Gary Cole) and his lady cop accomplice Carol (Rosie Perez) kill a man in cold blood. Considering Dale is high at the time, he freaks out and takes off running to the one person even less equipped to deal with a murdering drug lord and crooked cops than he is, Saul. Considering only Saul sells the infamous marijuana known as Pineapple Express, Dale was smoking it at the time he witnessed the murder, and Ted is the only supplier, well… it’s not long before our two pasty Cheech and Chong stand-ins are on the run from Ted’s top killers, Budlofsky (Kevin Corrigan) and Matheson (Craig Robinson).
This movie really surprised me. From the trailers, I didn’t expect much. I’d completely forgotten that James Franco had ever been a comedy actor, too. Freaks and Geeks was almost 10 years ago, after all, but he’s still got that comic timing and he knows his way around an action scene. He’s undoubtedly the revelation of the movie, even though Craig Robinson’s gigantic, effeminate hitman steals every scene he’s involved in. Seth Rogen gives his usual performance as a slacker pothead, which seems to be the role he was born to play. Or at least the role he continues to write for himself, given his successful forays into screenwriting. It works for him and he continues to be appealing, though I think it’s about time he branch out from the roles that butter his bread before he becomes a younger Canadian Will Ferrell.
Director David Gordon Green, working from a script by Superbad team Rogen and Seth Goldberg, crafts a funny, skillful film that plays like a combination between the manic action of Hot Fuzz and Chandler-lite intrigue of The Big Lebowski. It fails to reach the lofty heights of those two movies (especially Lebowski) thanks to a little too much emphasis on getting stoned and meandering, but it definitely provides more than its fair share of laughs and some impressive action sequences (with impressive gore, no less).
Franco and Rogen make a hell of a comedy duo, and if you’ve ever been around pot heads or pot dealers, then you’ll instantly recognize the sort of thinking that typifies massive marijuana use perfectly captured in the script. Gee, I wonder how they could have pulled that one off. I imagine there was a lot of, ahem, research into the roles.
In a summer that’s been fairly disappointing, it’s nice to be pleasantly surprised. When Step Brothers has been the notable dude comedy, it’s not hard to be one of the summer’s funnier highlights. At least until Tropic Thunder comes out, that is.