Pineapple Express: Marijuana Cautionary Tale?

Hollywood producer/director Judd Apatow denies it, but his new movie, Pineapple Express, appears to be an ode to marijuana abuse.

Apatow argued in TIME magazine that Pineapple Express, though it shows a great deal of marijuana smoking, is “an anti-pot movie.” According to Apatow, “most of the film is people trying to murder these two guys, them trying not to get murdered, and it's all because they're smoking pot. Seth [Rogen, who stars in the movie] thinks that's too subtle.” 

Rogen's right, based on the reviews of the movie. The anti-drug message is so subtle it's not mentioned in major reviews of Pineapple Express, a comedy/action movie that has made nearly $50 million since its release last week.


“Pineapple Express” is the name of a distinctive type of weed easily traced back to Saul and Red, the movie's dealer and supplier, respectively.  The fun begins when lead character Dale witnesses a murder and drops a joint containing the weed at the scene of the crime. 

Rolling Stone's Peter Travers wrote, “Pineapple Express slaps a big, fat, goofy smile on your face that lasts for days” and the “movie also has a heart as big as Saul's stash.”  Jason Lynch at People magazine calls it “a goofy treat, particularly if you, uh, identify with its pothead leads.”  TIME magazine's Richard Corliss said it's “one of the few drug movies you don't have to be high to enjoy.”  

No reviewer embraced the movie more joyously than the Washington Post's Ann Hornaday.  She begins her review with an anecdote:

When I was growing up, my mom brought home a poster from a local hippie boutique that featured the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg standing in the snow with a sign that read “Pot is fun.”  (What can I say?  She was a cool mom.)  That image came back in a giddy rush during Pineapple Express, a weed-fueled comedy that seems to have been designed to prove Ginsberg right.

Hornaday calls the movie “hilariously funny” and says of the characters, “even at their most mentally occluded, Apatow expects us to buy that they're essentially decent guys.”

Only one aspect of Pineapple Express didn't go over well with critics and it wasn't the drugs.  It was that the “weed-fueled” romp ends like Al Pacino's Scarface.  Manohla Dargis at the New York Times wrote as the movie “shifts genre gears and cranks up the noise, [it] becomes disappointingly sober and self-serious.”  Lynch admitted that his “interest waned as it shifted unto a violent shoot-'em up.” Hornaday said “even those who've turned their brains off long enough to enjoy it might find themselves ambushed by the film's climax: a bloody, protracted shootout in a bunker full of primo bud.”

Pineapple Express is rated R for its profanity, drug use, sexual references and violence, which means young teens and tweens shouldn't be able to view it, right?  Even Travers wrote in his review, “got that, kids?  You can't see it till you grow up.”  In reality, though, plenty of underage high school and middle schools kids are probably seeing this movie. 

The Los Angeles Times reported on August 5, which happened to be the day before the release of Pineapple Express, that 40 percent of children aged 13 to 16 were able to purchase tickets to R-rated movies at theaters.  And parents also have to be aware that it's easier once movies are released on DVD.  Nearly 80 percent of children in the same demographic were able to purchase R-rated DVDs. 

If adult movie critics aren't able to pick out the anti-drug message from Pineapple Express, do you think young teenagers will be able to do so?  Or will the message they receive be “Get high with friends.  Have a crazy adventure, end up a little bloodied and battered, and not face any real consequences?”