Seth Rogen (Knocked Up and Superbad) stars as Dale Denton, a process server in Clark County whose job is to drive around and deliver subpoenas or various other legal documents to unsuspecting defendants.
Sometimes, that involves simply walking up to someone's house in plainclothes, knocking on the door and handing over a piece of paper. Other times, it's dressing up as a surgeon and bursting into an operating room and saying, "You've been served."
Most times, however, Denton just hangs out in his car, smokes marijuana, and crank calls talk radio shows, though his favorite thing to do is smoke marijuana. He says it makes everything better. It makes sex better. It makes a bad movie better. Should we then all be high when going to see his movies?
James Franco (Spider-Man and Flyboys) plays Denton's drug dealer Saul. Saul supposedly has access to the best marijuana in the city. It's specially-grown weed that's very rare and that will ultimately lead to some trouble.
Before Franco became famously known for portraying the late James Dean in a TV movie, he co-starred with Rogen in the short-lived NBC series Freaks and Geeks. I imagine if Franco's character in that series had grown up, he might have become Saul.
Saul is a burnout. His brain is clearly fried. His mind is like a cracked egg in a hot skillet. In a USA Today article, Franco describes his character as like that of Spicoli, the infamous stoner, played by Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). Yet, I feel Franco plays his character more loveable, charming, and less annoying than Penn did his.
Dale and Saul are not as smart as say Harold and Kumar, but their on-the-run adventure is a whole lot more thrilling. It's kicked off after the two get caught in the middle of a war between Ted Jones, a big-time drug dealer, played by Gary Cole (A Simple Plan and Office Space), and an Asian gang. There's bloodshed, some comical hit men, and an urgent need not to get killed.
With help from comic filmmaker Judd Apatow, the script seems peppered with subtle punchlines, thrown out by Rogen and Franco in a way where the jokes aren't hitting you over the head obnoxiously. It doesn't feel like a routine in other words. It feels more like jokes you or I would make if we were high on dope ourselves. It feels natural.
Hot Fuzz (2007) was the last good comedy that combined crazy humor with serious action, and not just lame chases like in Superbad. It's surprising, as it comes from a director who is not known for his action work.
David Gordon Greene skillfully directs this broad, wild romp as well as he's directed his small, intimate dramas, as if he's done a hundred action films. Earlier this year, Greene churned out the adaptation of Snow Angels (2008), a realistic examination of a small-town murder. His other films focused more on important, social issues, or, gritty interpersonal relationships, and less on the ridiculousness of pot smokers running around acting like fools.
I wondered how Greene, or if Greene, could do something like this movie demands, which is completely opposite in tone and style as anything he's done before. Not just in terms of comedy, Greene also had to handle an outrageous car chase, a rough-and-tumble fight scene, as well as an intense shootout, things you won't find in any of his other films. Yet, Greene is able to deliver the goods. The fight scenes end up being a whole lot more fun than even those of Jackie Chan and Jet Li in their recent The Forbidden Kingdom (2008).
Danny McBride, who seems like a slightly more overweight Chris Parnell from Saturday Night Live, plays Red, Saul's pot provider and cat in disguise with his seemingly nine lives. Rosie Perez (White Men Can't Jump and Untamed Heart) plays a corrupt cop as brash and sassy as she wants to be. Both add some zesty if not zany flavor to this already hilarious story, which almost every supporting role had me laughing.
But, what I find most cool is the idea in this film of "bromosexual." It's like homosexual but only not so Brokeback. Yes, in this film, Rogen's character does have a girlfriend, but the true love story here is between him and Franco's character.
Five Stars out of Five
Rated R for language, drug use and violence
Running Time: 1 hr. and 51 mins.