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Up in smoke
Funny man Seth Rogen can't save 'Pineapple Express'

Pineapple Express (R)

2 1/2 stars out of 4

Last August saw the release of "Superbad," which was written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg while Rogen was a cast member of "Freaks & Geeks." Around the same time, the pair also wrote "Pineapple Express" which goes far in proving that lightning rarely strikes twice in the same spot.

Both movies were produced by Judd Apatow's seemingly unstoppable blockbuster machine and both are geared to the latent adolescent in all of us, but "Express" is completely devoid of the key elements that made "Superbad" so subversively endearing: heart and charm. When movie teens act stupid, it's because they're young, brash and inexperienced. When movie adults do so, it's - according to Rogen and Goldberg - because they're stoned.

Rogen plays Dale Denton, a disguise-wearing process server who chain smokes doobies while carrying out his duties. He is also dating high school cutie Angie (Amber Heard), something that doesn't seem strange to anyone, including her parents (Nora Dunn and Ed Begley Jr.).

One night, Dale's weed supplier Saul (James Franco) sells him a very rare strain only he has: Pineapple Express. For reasons better left explained by the movie, the purchase comes back to haunt Dale after he witnesses a murder committed by crime kingpin Ted (Gary Cole) and his crooked cop girlfriend Carol (Rosie Perez). Dale and Saul quickly find themselves on the wrong end of a manhunt and, as only two really high grown men might do, fumble and bumble their way through one near capture after another.

For 30 minutes, the movie is little more than a Caucasian take on the typical Cheech and Chong comedy and most of it works. It peaks in a scene involving Dale, Saul and Saul's supplier Red (Danny McBride) who provides the Curly to Rogen's Moe and Franco's Larry. This is also the scene where the movie morphs into something more resembling "Die Hard" than a light stoner comedy.

Perhaps because his resume is mostly art-house dramas, director David Gordon Green lends the production a tad more realism than needed (or wanted). The violence is surprisingly graphic and eventually overpowers the humor - which by the final act, has ... ahem, gone up in smoke.

Sadly, the movie points out that Rogen, a genuinely funny guy, is showing signs of type casting. There are only so many times audiences are going to want to watch an average looking, underachieving stoner. Rogen better hope his upcoming roles as The Green Hornet and an amateur filmmaker in "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" broadens audiences' perceptions of him.

If you decide to see the movie, don't be late. The first 10 minutes, which has nothing to do with the rest of the film, features current "Saturday Night Live" cast member Bill Hader as a late 1940s Army soldier acting as a guinea pig for his superiors. Underground at a top secret location, Hader's character is puffing on a joint and delivering a stream-of-consciousness rant that is utterly priceless. Needless to say, it's the funniest segment of the entire film. (Sony/Columbia)