`Pineapple Express' joins Hollywood stoner set

August 10, 2008 6:30:34 PM PDT
Stoners are riding high nowadays. Fans are buzzing about the reunion of Cheech and Chong after a long feud, and a couple of tokers are lighting up the box office with "Pineapple Express." From the pot partakers and dealers of "Weeds" to Harold and Kumar to Sean Penn's dude in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," stoners have been a beloved subset among Hollywood fringe players.

Some win Academy Awards (Kevin Spacey for his suburban sad-sack in "American Beauty"). Some lose their wheels (Ashton Kutcher in "Dude, Where's My Car?"). Some merely abide (Jeff Bridges' "The Dude" in "The Big Lebowski").

The canon of stoner flicks is almost as old as Hollywood itself, with the 1936 propaganda film "Reefer Madness" high on fans' must-see list. Other favorites include the '70s high-school flashback "Dazed and Confused," the demented Hunter S. Thompson tale "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and the inner-city romp "Friday."

"Pineapple Express" upholds a truism known to just about anyone who has lit up: That it's more fun to party in pairs than it is on your own.

The movie casts Seth Rogen as a pot smoker hunted by druglords and crooked cops after he witnesses a murder. He leaves a smoking gun - or rather, a smoking roach - at the scene, a strain of pot called Pineapple Express that's so potent and rare, the bad guys can track it back to its source - Rogen's dealer, played by James Franco.

So the duo ends up as an odd couple on the run. Rogen's pot-hound is a fairly responsible guy with a day job as a process server, while Franco's peddler is so lovably fuzzy-headed from the weed that it's a wonder he can tell a nickel bag from a potted fern.

Jack Black, no slouch himself as a big-screen stoner, has been high on Franco's performance since he caught an early screening of "Pineapple Express."

"He should win the High Times Stoner of the Year Award, hands down. I've been the recipient of that by the way, not to brag," Black said at last May's Cannes Film Festival. (His memory's a bit clouded: Black's "Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny" won 2007's Stoner Film of the Year Award presented by High Times magazine, while Rogen won Stoner of the Year, for "Knocked Up" and "Superbad.")

"Pineapple Express" inhaled a healthy $40.5 million at the box office since opening Wednesday, no doubt securing Rogen and Franco a perpetual place among partiers' pantheon of Hollywood bong buddies.

Here are some other favorite cannabis comrades from film and TV:

- Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong. The undisputed marijuana monarchs of Hollywood. Cheech and Chong turned their comedy act as loopy stoners into a big-screen career with "Up in Smoke," chronicling their endless search for good stuff to smoke.

"Is that a joint, man?" Cheech asks in "Up in Smoke" when Chong hands him a spliff the size of a pepperoni stick. "Looks like a quarter-pounder, man."

"Up in Smoke" was followed by a series of lesser Cheech and Chong pot comedies, and the pair later split over creative differences. But they're reuniting for their first comedy tour in 25 years, appropriately billing it "Light Up America."

"We're definitely still smoking," the 70-year-old Chong said at a news conference in July.

Added the 62-year-old Marin: "I get transfusions now." - Harold and Kumar. John Cho's Harold and Kal Penn's Kumar prove that bright college boys can turn their brains to mush with the best of them.

They made a massive case of the munchies into material for an entire movie when they set out on a quest for burgers in "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle."

In this year's sequel, "Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay," they even got to smoke with the Partier in Chief, George W. Bush, after they parachuted into the president's ranch.

- The boys from "Weeds." While the ups and downs of Mary-Louise Parker's marijuana empire take center stage on this TV series, her conniving opportunist of a brother-in-law, Andy (Justin Kirk), and graft-addicted accountant and city councilman Doug (Kevin Nealon) often steal the show with their banter over doobies.

"How can you be so blindly pro-Bush?" Andy asks amid a discussion over the war in Iraq.

"I like his wife, Laura," Doug replies. "Used to buy weed from her at SMU."

- Jay and Silent Bob. The hetero life mates Kevin Smith introduced as pot dealers outside a convenience store in "Clerks" became a common thread through most of his movies, including "Dogma," "Chasing Amy" and "Mallrats."

Real-life partier Jason Mewes (Jay) eventually cleaned up, so in keeping, his character and Silent Bob (played by Smith) also were off the weed by the time of "Clerks II."

But they left a long, leafy legacy on screen, even anchoring their own movie, "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," as they take on Hollywood to stop a movie based on their comic-book alter-egos, Bluntman and Chronic.

- Spicoli and Mr. Hand. OK, so Ray Walston's Mr. Hand, the stern educator of "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," isn't a toker.

But it's hard to imagine Sean Penn's doped-out Jeff Spicoli without the teacher at his side. Their night together in Spicoli's bedroom, where Mr. Hand turns up to cram some tidbits of knowledge into this incorrigible stoner's head before graduation, is one of Hollywood's most inspiring classroom sequences ever.

To paraphrase Spicoli, "Hey, bud, let's study."