Apatow's Raunchy 'Pineapple Express' is a Good High

If the guys from "Superbad" smoked too much weed in college, never got their diplomas and continued to find themselves in absurd situations, they might grow up to become the paranoid pothead trio in" Pineapple Express" (* * * 1/2 out of four).

This bawdy stoner comedy about a couple days in the life of three foolish dudes feels like a relative of last summer's hit about a trio of inept guys.

Fans of "Superbad" will enjoy Pineapple Express. It's a similar sweet-silly buddy comedy where everything that can go wrong does.

A scene with a stolen police car that leads to a pot-fueled chase is side-splittingly funny. Where alcohol infused many of the antics in "Superbad", "Pineapple Expres"s is decidedly smoke-enshrouded.

Descending from a comic tradition begun by Cheech and Chong and continued by Bill and Ted and Harold and Kumar, the two at the center of all the dopey business don't exactly have names that reek of cool. Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) is a process server with a decidedly lazy streak. His dealer, Saul Silver (James Franco), offers him a rare new strain of marijuana called Pineapple Express. This super-powerful blend is so special and rare "it's almost a shame to smoke it," Saul says. "It's like killing a unicorn."

This exchange between dealer and druggie leads to a series of unfortunate events that culminates in a cartoonish shootout. Rogen and Franco have great comic chemistry. The initial scenes in Franco's apartment are absurdly funny and establish their whacked-out friendship.

Franco is a revelation. We knew Rogen was funny, but Franco is hilarious. He is the perfect stoned buffoon as he waxes about an oddly constructed "cross joint." "This is the future. This is like the apex of the vortex of joint technology. This is what your grandchildren are going to be smoking."

Also prankishly funny is Saul's double-crossing buddy Red, played by Danny McBride, whose star is on the rise after his turns as a lame-brained tae kwon do instructor in "The Foot Fist Way" and a crazed explosives expert in the upcoming "Tropic Thunder."

Producer Judd Apatow excels at this sort of raunchy but good-natured post-adolescent tale and has wisely allied himself with smart, quirky filmmakers.

Director David Gordon Green, whose last film was the somber character study "Snow Angels," shows a definite talent for gut-busting comedy.

You don't have to be in an altered state to appreciate the ludicrous humor. The laughs — mostly crude, profane and drug-addled — are almost non-stop. (Rated R for pervasive language, drug use, sexual references and language. Running time: 1 hour, 51 minutes. Opens in some theaters tonight and nationwide Wednesday.)

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