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The Guilt Trip

2012 | 95 min | PG-13 | 2.39:1

The Guilt Trip


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Theatrical release date

 19 December, 2012
 01 March, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

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Screenshots from The Guilt Trip Blu-ray

The Guilt Trip Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, December 19, 2012

“The Guilt Trip” is a picture where the performances are flavorful but the production is much too bland. Ostensibly a comedy, the film strangely avoids anything approximating a joke, wasting humorous situations and the potential for pace on a falsely sentimental tone that’s uninteresting and insincere. “The Guilt Trip” is too busy being totally harmless that it forgets to put in the effort to be hilarious, which is exactly what ticket buyers want when they plunk down serious coin to spend 100 minutes with Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand. For a road movie, the feature goes absolutely nowhere.

A chemistry nerd who’s invented a completely natural household cleaner, Andy (Seth Rogen) is trying to find a buyer for his product, striking out with major retailers due to his stiff sales presentation. Down to his last dollar, Andy prepares to drive from New Jersey to Las Vegas, making stops along the way to share his magic liquid with corporations. Greeting mother Joyce (Barbra Streisand) and hearing a story about the origin of his name, taken from an old boyfriend from her distant past, Andy decides, against all his screaming instincts, to invite her to join him on the road. Hitting the interstate, the pair revives their itchy dynamic, with Joyce smothering Andy with her overbearing parenting, while Andy worries about his secret plan to reunite his mother with her lost love, making their way west one awkward meeting and calamity at a time.

Scripted by Dan Folgelman, “The Guilt Trip” isn’t a dangerous creation out to shock its audience. It’s vanilla pudding directed by nondescript helmer Anne Fletcher (“The Proposal,” “27 Dresses”), who doesn’t challenge the material in the slightest, perhaps so excited that she landed Streisand for the lead role (her first top-billed gig since 1996), everything else was reduced to a lower creative priority. It’s a shame too, as “The Guilt Trip” has the potential to be a riot, playing up mother/son anxieties as the participants are crammed into a compact car for the week-long trip, triggering old arguments, unfortunate revelations, and a gentle display of overdue communication. The screenplay doesn’t have to be original, just inspired in certain areas, and Folgelman’s work just doesn’t have much of a spark. He’s mapped out the route and the roadside attractions, he just forgot to add the personality, and Fletcher is no help in that department.

There’s fun here for the taking. Watching Andy and Joyce suffer car troubles on the road, forcing them to take refuge inside a strip club during a winter storm has potential, but the interplay, largely about Andy’s penis discoloration as a toddler, is DOA. Another stop at a Texas restaurant where Joyce decides to save a few bucks and take on a steak-eating challenge for the chance at a free meal is ripe with potential for pure silliness, yet the encounter is turned into a romantic moment of sorts, where the widow finds interest from a businessman (Brett Cullen) who admires a hearty woman. There’s a flatness here that’s frustrating to witness, and while “The Guilt Trip” isn’t looking to be the edgiest production around, its lack of interest in anything approaching an identifiable sense of humor is deflating. Rogen and Streisand are great together, with credible, warm chemistry, but they’re hamstrung by the production’s restraint, muting their naturally robust personalities.

Although dives into argumentative behavior and sentimental business are expected, “The Guilt Trip” dreams up some thin reasons to bring the endeavor to a halt. Melodrama is rendered false by the screenplay, which struggles to provide a reason to bottom out Joyce and Andy so they’ll soar again in the finale, introducing ridiculous roadblocks concerning the true destination of the trip. Joyce doesn’t strike me as a woman who would process her son’s offering of love and emotional resolution as a threat or a scam, yet the film travels down a hackneyed path of separation to sniff out a climax worth rooting for.

“The Guilt Trip” isn’t awful, just terribly disappointing. It’s pleasing to see Rogen work on another side to his screen persona, and Streisand’s immensely appealing in the pestering mother role, but their combined charisma can’t cut through this lackluster material.

Starring: Seth Rogen, Barbra Streisand, Yvonne Strahovski, Colin Hanks, Brett Cullen, Adam Scott
Director: Anne Fletcher

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