Review: ‘The Guilt Trip’ Delivers Lots of Warm and Fuzzy – Light on Laughs
The Guilt Trip was a tough one to pin any sort of expectations on – the combination of funnyman Seth Rogen and multitalented icon Barbara Streisand was intriguing to say the least – but whether or not the duo will have box office legs… Well, we’ll find out after the film opens on the 19th.
The story is relatively straight-forward. Andrew Brewster (Rogen) flies home to New Jersey from Los Angeles and spends a few nights catching up with Joyce, his widowed mother (Streisand) before embarking on a cross country road trip to pitch an all-natural, organic version of Windex he developed to the K-Marts and Costco’s of the world. After spending a few days in the mundane, suburban book club nightmare his mom calls her life, he decides to bring her along for the ride with the ulterior motive of reuniting her with her long lost love.
It’s a winning premise, and with Streisand and Rogen shouldering the leads, it’s any Hollywood studio execs dream come true. Unfortunately, it proves to be a bit of a one trick pony. The conflict between Streisand and Rogen runs in a great big circle – she’s unintentionally overbearing and he’s desperate to sever the umbilical cord and make a name for himself without any help from anyone, especially his mother – that formula leads to every single one of the film’s funny moments and the joke is played out in the film’s first fifteen minutes.
The narrative arc also leaves something to be desired. Like any road trip movie, it’s fairly episodic, but for some reason, in this particular film the little adventures shared by Mother and Son along the way feel forced and heavy handed.
Even more disappointing is the fact that the film regularly sacrifices huge comedic potential in the name of its PG-13 rating – for instance, in what should have been one of the film’s funniest scenes, Andrew and Joyce are forced to take a pit stop at a seedy Tennessee strip club (I used to live in Nashville and may or may not have been to one or two of those before. The idea of walking into one with my mother… Mortifying doesn’t begin to describe it.) Instead of being jam-packed with awkward hilarious gags, the scene was incredibly casual, functioning merely as a stepping-stone to the next story point.
Other criticism aside, I think my biggest quarrel with The Guilt Trip is that it wasn’t the movie I wanted it to be. The casting and trailers led me to believe that I was in for an Apatow-esque digestion of an incredibly universal relationship and I was genuinely excited to laugh my ass off. Instead, writer Dan Fogelman and director Anny Fletcher – both accomplished practitioners of their respective crafts – go for a more sentimental approach, diving deep into the eccentricities and quirks that drive us crazy about our families and reminding us what’s really important as the Holliday season comes into full swing.
In the spirit of awarding credit where credit’s due, Streisand and Rogen do succeed in pulling off some pretty warm and fuzzy heartfelt moments and do have solid chemistry together. In fact, this movie is probably the perfect movie to take your mom to this Holiday season. Just don’t expect to fall out of your chair laughing.