Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Seth Rogen, Barbra Streisand
Written by Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love, Tangled, Cars, Cars 2)
Directed by Anne Fletcher (Step Up, 27 Dresses, The Proposal)
It's been over 30 years since Barbra Streisand has starred as a lead in a comedy (1981's All Night Long opposite Gene Hackman), not that anyone but hardcore Streisand fans are counting. But when producers set up production within 30 minutes of your home, promising to shoot a cross-country road trip movie entirely in the confines of Hollywood (as was done in order for Streisand to sign on), it isn't hard to understand why Babs has decided to come out of leading-lady-comedic-retirement, so to speak. It definitely wasn't for the script.
The Guilt Trip is your average, run-of-the-mill road trip movie, containing surprisingly few laughs considering its stars. Seth Rogen is Andrew Brewster, an inventor who can't seem to sell any of his inventions. He plans to head out on the road to pitch his newest product to those out there that will listen. Stopping in at mom's (Streisand), he learns of an old flame of hers and decides to bring mom along for the ride to make one extra stop in order to reunite them, unbeknownst to her.
In the age of Facebook and the internet, we won't ask why he doesn't look ahead to see if he has the right person. That's not important. What is important is that they get in the car and go, so the movie can begin.
As road trip comedies go, it detours into every cliche in the book. Seth Rogen's character is the reserved straight-man to his overbearing and whacky mother and the restrained role does little for the actor, who is normally at his best when allowed to be raunchy and loose. Their dynamic starts off humorous but wears thin quickly, trying to hit upon the same note over and over again.
It's never a good thing when a comedy isn't all that funny, but The Guilt Trip isn't. Fans of Streisand will probably enjoy seeing her hamming it up, but fans of Rogen will most assuredly leave feeling disappointed.
Despite all of this, The Guilt Trip does deserve credit for focusing on a mother-son relationship that is actually positive. Too often in entertainment, mothers are out to kill their sons (think The Sopranos), drive them crazy, get in the way of them growing up, derail a relationship, or - perhaps most often - are shown as the root of all of the problems that the son faces in his life. Although Streisand does drive her son a bit mad (as anyone would being cooped up in a car together for an extended amount of time), their relationship is shown as strong, loving and caring one. Dare I say, it's genuine.
This is the saving grace of The Guilt Trip, a not-so-funny, not-so-memorable comedy that gives us a refreshing, positive mother-son relationship, one we aren't used to seeing portrayed. Forget Mars, movies need more moms. Ones that aren't always trying to ruin our lives.
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