Unless I missed something I don’t remember seeing people in any context clamoring for a mother and son road trip film- let alone one that stars Barabara Streisand. Todd Phillips attempted a road trip themed film hot off the success of THE HANGOVER with two hot communities at the time (Robert Downey Jr./Zack Galifianakis) to somewhat of a thud compared to the success of his previous R rated comedy. So I’m a bit baffled at anyone who looked at the material in THE GUILT TRIP and said to themselves, “Oh yeah, this is what everyone’s been waiting for.” I’m even more baffled when you look at the slew of titles released around it that include Hobbits, Oscar winners, Oscar nominees, Tarantino and material based on a popular musical. None of these spells success for anyone involved and I fully expect THE GUILT TRIP to be DOA.
With all of that out of the way let me now go ahead and say that the film isn’t the black hole of comedy that I feel a lot of people will be reporting it to be. Do not mistake that previous statement to mean that I’m even remotely telling you to go out and see it immediately. First let me briefly say that the film stars Rogen as a chemist that’s invented a revolutionary cleaning product that he’s taking cross country in attempts to sell. His mother is played by Streisand who reveals to him about her first love which prompts her son to invite her on the trip with the intention to reunite the two at the culmination of said trip. Second, let me say that the film is ridiculously predictable and it does have a lot of script issues that the actors either cannot or have no interest in elevating.
During the first 15 to 20 minutes and maybe more of THE GUILT TRIP I don’t think I had so much of a chuckle and that is an immense issue for me. Comedies that fail to deliver even an amused scoff within the first few scenes make one (namely me) wonder if it’s a comedy at all. It’s not until Rogen and Streisand get on the road that the film started to pick up for me, but it never really gets any kind of momentum in its favor to win me back in order to make me like it in the end.
The majority of the comedy in this film is nothing more than Streisand as a mother who might have Attention Deficit Disorder and continues to mercilessly nag Rogen’s character and say uncomfortable things. I guess the writers are trying to play towards the male audience’s likelihood that they too have experienced this type of annoyance which might be the case at times, but also annoyingly cartoonish at others. The biggest laughs for me came from Rogen’s off hand comments under his breath that seem to be improvised by Rogen himself than anything that came from the writers. There are a few jokes here and there that work, but for the most part the majority of obviously scripted moments fall flat and the finale has the tendency to be a little too sweet and contrived for general audiences- though it’s bound to tickle the fancy of the mother’s in the audience.
In spite of all the negative things I have to say about the film in general and the lackluster script I think that Rogen and Streisand have a decent amount of chemistry in terms of the mother/son relationship. For me though, Streisand really began to get on my nerves- maybe it was her character’s over abundance of never ending commentary, maybe it was her voice or any mixture of both, but either way she became exhausting.
All in all THE GUILT TRIP doesn’t seem like an appropriate title for the film so much as it seems to be the means to which the filmmakers got the actors into the film. There’s a few moments at the beginning where Rogen appears to be starring off into space wondering why he’s there and at select moments throughout the rest of the film. As a comedy it commits the sin of spending too many stretches of its runtime not being funny and being entirely too predictable. I found Rogen to be my biggest draw to the material and did get a kick out of quite a few of his jokes during the latter half of the film, but ultimately THE GUILT TRIP is extremely light entertainment that’s severely lacking in memorable jokes and heavy in eye rolling mother/son quirks.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)