A process server and his marijuana dealer wind up on the run from hitmen and a corrupt police officer after he witness his dealer's boss murder a competitor while trying to serve papers on him.
“It’s like killing a unicorn… with like a bomb.” – Saul
Inspiration can strike anyone, anywhere, at any time. Take Hollywood producer Judd Apatow for example. One day he’s sitting at home watching 1993’s ‘True Romance’ on the boob tube, and suddenly a light bulb appears in a cartoonlike cloud over his head. Wouldn’t it be cool if a stoner like Floyd (Brad Pitt) from Tony Scott’s film was mixed up with some really bad dudes and had to hightail it out of his apartment? Sounds pretty crazy, huh?
Well, Apatow thought so too at first, but the more he thought about the idea, the more he liked it. So much so, he enlisted his longtime friends Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg who wrote ’Superbad’ to pen the screenplay--which was then snatched up by Sony Pictures after Rogen hit the big-time with ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ and ’Knocked Up.’ In the end, what seemed like a thought derived from tapping a bong turned out to be one of the most popular and talked about comedies of 2008—‘Pineapple Express.’
In the movie, Rogen plays Dale Denton, a process server whose daily routine alternates between putting on disguises in order to sneak up on and slap unsuspecting civilians with subpoenas or savoring the buzz of a well-rolled doobie. As soon as his stash is running low, he pays a visit to his dealer--a mild-mannered pothead named Saul (James Franco). On one particular afternoon, Saul sells Dale some of his new “exclusive” product that is the cream of the marijuana crop, a rare form of cannabis called Pineapple Express.
Later that evening, when Dale is smoking a joint in his car before delivering civil documents to the home of one Ted Jones (Gary Cole), a police cruiser pulls into the driveway causing him to instinctively fire his roach out the window. A few moments afterwards, Dale witnesses a gruesome murder. Dale flees the scene in a panic and heads to Saul’s to lay low for a while. The plot thickens, however, when he learns that Saul’s supplier is Red (Danny McBride), the middle-man connecting Saul to the drug kingpin in town, Ted Jones. Piecing together that Jones will be able to trace the roach back to them, Dale and Saul take off on a wacky adventure to save their necks, and maybe smoke a little weed, too.
After watching the first few minutes of ‘Pineapple Express,’ I couldn’t ignore this sinking feeling in my stomach, kind of like the awkwardness and dread of sitting in the dentist’s office waiting to be called in for a filling. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I thought the Item 9 flashback prologue, where the military tested out the effects of marijuana, missed the comedic mark completely. Don’t get me wrong, I like Bill Hader, but the opener felt like a bad ‘SNL’ sketch that went horribly wrong. I understand it was included to set the stage for what comes later on in the film, but for me it was a fumble that hit all the wrong chords.
Following the bizarre opener, I was relieved to see that things improved dramatically once Dale made it to Saul’s place. The entire atmosphere morphed from a silly ‘Austin Powers’-esque comedy to more of the grade-A quality instant classic that Apatow and Rogen usually deliver when they collaborate on a project together. What’s more, unlike their previous films, ‘Pineapple Express’ is packed with well choreographed action. The big sequences are the car chase and the final climatic showdown, but my favorite had to be the brawl between Dale, Saul, and Red at Red’s house. It was raw and vicious, and I had a hard time catching my breath I was laughing so hard.
The real magic, however, happens between Rogen and Franco, who have the ideal chemistry and complement each other perfectly. The interactions with them were priceless, especially whenever Saul said something ridiculous and threw Dale for a loop. That being said, while Rogen is great as always, if it wasn’t for Franco, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for this performance, the movie just wouldn’t have been the same. He creates a stoner character with innocence and heart that doesn’t feel like the typical cliché we’re used to seeing. To put it another way, Saul’s personality is genuine, almost as if we’ve known him for years.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
'Pineapple Express' tokes its way onto 4K as part of an Ultra HD Blu-ray + Blu-ray combo pack that includes a Digital HD copy. It's my understanding that this Ultraviolet redemption code can also be used on Sony's 4K streaming service -- Ultra -- where you can watch the movie in UHD. Other services are likely limited to HD.
The Ultra HD Blu-ray contains ONLY the theatrical cut as well as the option to watch the movie with the Audio Commentary. Otherwise, to see the Extended Cut or the Bonus Materials, you need to pop in the included Blu-ray Disc, which appears to be a repackaging of the original 2008 release (not the more recent Mastered in 4K version).
'Pineapple Express' arrives on Ultra HD with a solid HEVC encode framed in the film's original 2.40:1 aspect ratio, but one that doesn't necessarily shout "upgrade" over the previous Blu-ray release.
While I don't have the Mastered in 4K Blu-ray on hand, doing A-to-B comparisons between the Ultra HD Blu-ray and original Blu-ray first appear more similar than different, but look a little closer and the Ultra HD comes out on top.
Colors -- particularly reds, greens, and blues — are more overtly vivid, but never cartoonish. Compare shots of the blue skies, which are much more lifelike in UHD. Fine details such as grassy fields and costumes are also more resolved and refined in 4K. And, like other titles I've recently reviewed, there are more highlight details. Check out Saul's car windows during the opening titles; where the Blu-ray is overexposed, the UHD BD offers more visible details. Black levels remain solid as well, while a small layer of grain gives the whole experience a filmic appearance look. Also, I don't see an encoding errors or oddities in the visual effects, which has been an issue with many early releases. Overall, this transfer is very clean.
Yet, despite all of these improvements, the effect of bouncing between HD-uprezzed and UHD versions is more subtle than what I saw with 'Hancock' so it's a little harder to recommend the expense of upgrading. Also, the overall image remains a little flat and the color palette more muted than more demo-worthy UHD titles.
Ultimately, 'Pineapple Express' looks quite good on Ultra HD Blu-ray, but does not represent a dramatic visual uptick over the original Blu-ray and doesn't offer any overall WOW factor.
'Pineapple Express' subpoenas Ultra HD Blu-ray with an average Dolby Atmos soundtrack that, nonetheless, offers a more engaging sound mix than the original Blu-ray's front-heavy 5.1 track.
While I wouldn't use 'Pineapple Express' for demonstration purposes, it's a track that shows strengths in subtle refinements. First, sound effect placement has improved, with the re-recording mixers electing to locate environmental effects overhead and in the surrounds to give a nice sense of place and time. Listen in the wooded sequences as well as the school hallways. Second, while I wouldn't call this track "immersive", the use of overhead speakers for effects and music broaden the front soundstage showing off the track's dynamic range. Dialog remains clear and focused. And the music cues sound good too.
Compliments and improvements aside, this is a pretty meager Atmos track overall that doesn't offer much in the way of LFE punch or surround aggression. In that sense, it stays true to the original mix, sounding much more like a Sundance comedy than fully embracing its inherent crime and action genre potential.
Other soundtrack options include French 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, while subtitle options include English, English SDH, French, and Spanish.
’Pineapple Express’ comes with one of the largest assortments of bonus features I’ve ever seen on Blu-ray. It took me a good day or so to go through all of them, and there’s bound to be something for everyone.
'Pineapple Express' is a fun stoner comedy with some great R-rated gags and even some action sequences to boot. However, the Ultra HD Blu-ray is a bit of a conundrum. Yes, the video and audio presentations are demonstrably improved, the video quality is also quite good among early UHD offerings, but not overwhelmingly so. If this were the first release, a day-and-date release, OR if you're a big fan of this movie, I'd be more inclined to say Recommended. Since it's the third release, it's more Worth A Look for my two pennies.