Movies: 'Pineapple Express' and its Sly Trailer

How do you hawk a film to a mainstream audience when even the meaning of the title is too illicit to explain? Simple—you make it look like something else. Ads for the new Judd Apatow-produced stoner comedy, the Aug. 6 release "Pineapple Express," shill the movie as an action flick about two dimwitted pals inadvertently swept into a crime thriller. The cleverly edited promos have all the retro stylings of a screwball "Dirty Harry"—Seth Rogen sports polyester lapels while James Franco thwarts grisly bad guys with a Glock and a ninja headband. Only the occasional background wisp of smoke suggests there might be reefer behind that madness.

But drugs are the theme, not a sideshow. These guys aren't low on IQ points—they're just perpetually stoned. They're not even buddies; as stoner and dealer, they're more like business associates. And they're not on the lam from mobsters—they're entangled in a police chase over the eponymous "pineapple express," a powerful strain of psychoactive marijuana. So why the vanilla marketing in an age of moms dealing pot on cable? Sony Pictures didn't return NEWSWEEK's requests for comment. But as Robert Thompson, a pop-culture and television professor at Syracuse University, puts it: "It's the old bait-and-switch, but in reverse"—rather than lure with controversy, Sony has made the film seem tame. The worry, he says, is that you'll get "a whole bunch of people who really want to see a standard action adventure, and all of a sudden it's Cheech and Chong for the new century." With movies, as with drugs, what you see isn't always what you get.