film reel image

film reel image

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Guilt Trip 2012 * * Stars

Director: Anne Fletcher
Year: 2012
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen, Brett Cullen

Heralding itself as a late 2012 fall release, The Guilt Trip is a harmless mix of mild comedy and drama. Unfortunately, it's also incredibly bland and misfires entirely under the weight of odd casting choices and a script that feels as if it was written spontaneously on napkins (I'm thinking it didn't take too long to complete a final draft). If I had to categorize this film, I'd say it's a massively watered down version of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987). That movie seemed to flesh out the two main characters (Steve Martin and John Candy) with thoughtful insight and brilliant comedic timing. The Guilt Trip, however, puts two actors as mother and son (Seth Rogan, Barbara Streisand who were never meant to work together) in situations where they can't generate laughs, can't sell dramatic scenes, and to put it mildly, strain mercilessly with the material. Now don't get me wrong, I like these two. If you place them in the right vehicles (separately of course) they are solid (Rogen in an R-rated raunch fest, Streisand in a PG-13 romantic comedy). But I think some studio executive thought they would make an interesting and effective screen pair. Well I'll say this, after sitting through The Guilt Trip, having these two stars trade dialogue in a movie makes about as much sense as skydiving out of a plane without a parachute. You catch my drift?

The story begins with Rogen's character (Andy Brewster, a guy who invents cleaning products) flying all the way out from California to visit his mother (Joyce played by Streisand) in Newark, New Jersey. While there, Andy discovers a little more about his mom based on a secret she reveals to him (I don't want to give anything away but it has to do with how he got his birth name) and this information leads him to invite Joyce on a cross country road trip that goes back the opposite way eventually winding up in San Francisco. I'm am a little curious though, I mean how does this guy have enough money for airfare and car rental (not to mention purchasing 10,000 of his products to ship and sell). You can tell early on that he's not too good of a salesman and it appears that he doesn't really make a commission at his job. Anyway, a road trip ensues, the two of them playfully bicker back and forth, and over the course of the journey, stop at different towns and cities so Andy can try to peddle his cleaning solution (a spray confection from non-poisonous resources I guess). Both characters are put in some mild amusing situations throughout their expedition (they wind up in a strip club, Joyce enters an eating contest, yawn yawn). But nothing too serious really happens (although Andy visiting his pregnant ex-girlfriend in Tennessee with her husband by her side, seems overly awkward to me) and that's the problem. The Guilt Trip is sadly an idea or a premise searching for a full length movie and based on what I saw, I'd say it could maybe pass as a half hour episode of a TV show. That's about it. This is pretty lightweight film making people. What's up on screen could possibly float away.

Along with the uneven feeling of the casting and just about everything else, the screenplay by Dan Fogelman (Crazy Stupid Love) also seems to be somewhat of a culprit here. The actors don't have a lot to work with because the dialogue is achingly thin and lacks bite. You can see Rogen and Streisand trying to finish scenes by improvising badly (I know these two can act so I don't fault them). To add insult to injury, their actions are somewhat hypocritical. For instance, it seems obvious that Andy loves his mother unconditionally but feels very uncomfortable to be around her. Why then, would he invite Joyce to venture 3000+ miles with him in a car. Really? Also, why would Joyce, a women who is not into relationships and doesn't want to meet anyone, listen to some trashy romance novels on tape (with a lot of sexual innuendo I might add) and not only that, listen in the car while her son is driving. Are you serious! Oh, and don't get me started on Streisand's character picking up a hitchhiker. It's one of the many comedic scenes in this flick that literally flop and die.

With all the nonsense, I'd have to say that the ending to The Guilt Trip was really sort of touching. Again, like most of the movie, it felt pat and strained. However, it was well intentioned and seemed to do an okay job of wrapping things up. The other 85-plus minutes though, were a cringe fest of badly forced acting and uncomfortable situations between the characters. Is it anywhere near the worst movie watching experience in my lifetime, not entirely. But I now know that it's one "trip" I'll never take again.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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