[Review] – The Guilt Trip

23 Dec

The Guilt Trip

Title: The Guilt Trip
Year: 2012
Director: Anne Fletcher
Writer: Dan Fogelman
Starring: Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen, Brett Cullen, Adam Scott, Ari Graynor, Casey Wilson, Colin Hanks, Yvonne Strahovski
MPAA Rating: PG-13, language and some risque material
Runtime: 95 min
IMDb Rating: 5.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 37%
Metacritic: 51

Anne Fletcher started out in Hollywood as a choreographer and, because of that, went on to direct Step Up in 2006, which was, of course, a big box office hit that pretty much helped launch Channing Tatum‘s career. She followed that up with 27 Dresses and The Proposal, two romantic comedies that also made a killing at the box office (especially the latter) and is now back on the director’s chair with another comedy, though this time not based on a romance but instead on a mother-son relationship, called The Guilt Trip. Though, after seeing how this one’s been tracking in its first few days of release, it doesn’t seem like it will be the big commercial hit her previous films have been.

The script comes from Dan Fogelman, mostly know for penning animated films like Tangled and Cars but also being the one responsible for writing last year’s Crazy, Stupid, Love., a film I seriously loved. Apparently he go the idea for this film from a real life experience that saw him taking a road trip from New Jersey to Las Vegas in the company of his mother, and that’s the basic gist of this movie. You have this guy, Andy, who works as an inventor and eventually has to take his mom, Joyce, on this cross-country road trip in which he’s supposed to sell his latest invention.

Seth Rogen is in charge of playing the guy and Barbra Streisand plays the mom, a huge get considering the two-time Oscar winner hasn’t taken on a leading role since 1996’s The Mirror Has Two Faces (which she directed herself) and has only been seen in a supporting role in Meet the Fockers and (the disastrous) Little Fockers since then. Unfortunately, the return of a legend is not enough to make this a great movie (though, to be fair, I was never a huge Barbra Streisand fan – oh, the blasphemy!).

Don’t get me wrong, I actually thought The Guilt Trip was decent enough for the most part, I just think that you can get some much higher quality entertainment in theaters during this time of the year. And, what’s more, it’s not Mr. Rogen or Ms. Streisand’s fault that this one doesn’t work all that awesomely, they actually have pretty amazing chemistry and are the reason this achieves whatever it manages to achieve, but I just thought the script did this one in, just being so bland and absolutely lacking in any kind of comedic potential.

What I’m trying to say is that, if you have to see it, go see it. It’s not a horrible movie, it’s short and sweet and warm, and it definitely knows its audience, which I’m guessing comprises of the millions of Barbra Streisand fans out there (if your mom’s one of them, take her to see this one, you’ll gain tons of son points). That’s the only reason why I’m giving this one a (slight) recommending grade, because it knows what kind of movie it is and it doesn’t pretend otherwise, and because we all know a person in real life who’s just like Joyce.

People who see it are probably going into because of Seth Rogen and/or Barbra Streisand and not because they expect some genius piece of writing or crafty direction, and they’d be right. Even for someone like me who isn’t the biggest Barbra Streisand fan out there this works because it’s still fun to see such an accomplished and confident actress being able to just really own a whole movie, even if she’s only appeared on screen a handful of times in the last two decades. And it’s also fun to see the combination of her and Seth Rogen work as well as it does considering how kooky that sounds on paper.

Sure, the screenplay is very clearly mapped and doesn’t really seem concerned at all with any more than just crossing off all the items on its checklist. You have the widowed mom to this sad-sack guy who, before she met Andy’s father, loved a guy who lived in San Francisco and then Andy’s guilted into taking her on this trip with him and secretly has the mission of reuniting her with her old beau. Its formulaic, and of course there will be bonding moments along the road and of course Joyce, like any good Jewish mother, will butt in on Andy’s business pitches, but the material is elevated because of these performances which just make it work pretty nicely indeed.

It’s that combo that makes The Guilt Trip, and since that’s probably why people will see it in the first place I guess that’s just fine. They are really smart in how they play off each other, and during the end credits we get some outtakes of the two just ad-libbing of each other that pretty much offers solid proof that this would have been a much funnier movie if the two could’ve just improvised the whole thing and just stuck to the scenes between them since the other elements were so poorly crafted.

Poorly crafted not because of Ms. Fletcher, by the way. Her direction may be totally uninspired and just absolutely workmanlike, knowing what she has to do to simply get the job done just like the screenplay, but it was far from horrible. In fact, this may be the best direction she’s given yet outside of stuff having to do with dancing, and considering she’s apparently the one in charge of bringing the sequel to Enchanted to the big screen, a film I really care for, it bodes well that she keeps improving. Maybe soon she’ll know just what works in her movies and stick to that and get rid off contrived plot elements and sappy happy endings.

Grade: B-


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