Thursday, December 27, 2012

Movie with Abe: The Guilt Trip

The Guilt Trip
Directed by Anne Fletcher
Released December 19, 2012

There are two types of films that come out around the end of the calendar year: Oscar bait and crowd-pleasers. This comedy falls in the latter category, a comedy designed to be broadly enjoyed by families and people of all ages. Appealing to such a wide spectrum, of course, isn’t easy, and “The Guilt Trip,” the story of an overbearing mother (Barbra Streisand) invited on a week-long road trip with her grown son (Seth Rogen) turns out not to be effective for any age group, opting for cheap laughs and absurd plotting over legitimate creativity and ingenuity.

Both Streisand and Rogen have firmly established reputations in film. Streisand’s dates back to her Oscar win for her debut film role in “Funny Girl” forty-five years ago, while Rogen’s cinematic resume is strongly linked to filmmaker Judd Apatow and has really developed only in the last five years. Objectively, they’re the perfect pair to play this duo, but the trouble is that neither of them is putting in the effort that has served them so well in the past. Streisand assumes her role more easily, while Rogen’s flabbergasted, buttoned-up performance is a far cry from his similar character in the film that put him on the map, “Knocked Up.”

“The Guilt Trip” is filled with expected setups, references, and jokes, not all of which were present in the film’s highly accurate trailer. As Rogen’s Andy weaves his way through a sea of product placement from companies like Kmart, Costco, and HSN to pitch his very scientific and unmarketable invention, Scieoclean, Streisand’s Joyce tags along for the ride, taking every opportunity she can find to emasculate and embarrass her son, which puts a definitive strain on their relationship and throws a wrench into his business efforts.

Like any comedy that’s only 5% drama, of course, it will all inevitably lead to them getting along magnificently, finally able to accept each other’s eccentricities as undeniable facts of life. “The Guilt Trip” takes an enormously predictable path to civility for its two characters, setting them up for explosive confrontation at a few key points in the film, providing them enough time to make up and come to a clearer understanding of how they can positively coexist. The notion of a road trip film with two adult family members is actually quite funny, and it’s a shame that this lamentable comedy doesn’t stretch the bounds of its premise at all, shooting instead for the lowest common denominator.


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