From Where’s Poppa to Psycho, the overbearing and intrusive mother and her henpecked son have, for decades, been staples of Hollywood films. Similarly, the volatile pairing of the miserable uptight businessman and the irresponsible immature nut has been the basis of many road trip comedies. Guilt Trip tries to combine these subgenres but the comic potential of this union has been squandered as this film is seriously lacking in genuine laughs.
In Guilt Trip, Andrew Brewster (Seth Rogen) is both the forlorn, browbeaten son and the snarky uptight business man as he struggles to salvage his cleaning product business amid relentless phone calls and visits from his doting, widowed Mum Joyce (Barbara Streisand). With the possibility of re-introducing her to an old boyfriend in San Francisco, Rogen decides to take his mother on his latest sales trip across America.
Guilt Trip indulges all the standard mother and son gags: she nags him about his diet and his love life and takes every opportunity to embarrass him public. Unfortunately, very few of these gags are actually funny. There’s actually awkward empty spaces after each gag where director Anne Fletcher mistakenly thought the audience would be laughing.
It’s not that the pairing of Rogen and Streisand entirely lack chemistry, it’s just that the script doesn’t allow enough tension between them or provide sufficiently witty dialogue to make their exchanges funny. The film sets up various scenarios with comic potential, such as Joyce invading a business meeting but does nothing with them.
More successful are the straight dramatic moments where the two confront their personal differences and where Streisand laments a past romance. In fact, Rogen’s more tolerable playing it straight in these more serious scenes than when he does his comical goofball routine. Streisand’s also better (but hardly memorable) in the dramatic moments than in the half-baked comic set-ups. For the most part Babs seems to be coasting in this film and she only comes to life when paying out on the self-centred Andrew.
Aside from being a luke-warm comedy, the standout problem with this film is its overwhelming use of product placement. Nearly every scene belts us over the head with some major corporate brand. Also, for a road trip film there’s very little in the way of stunning scenery, in fact mother and son sneer at the idea of surveying the magnificent natural wonder of the Grand Canyon.
Guilt Trip is not the enormous squawking turkey some have suggested, it’s a comedy dud but it survives on some vaguely credible scenes of family drama.
Nick’s rating: Two and a half stars.
Director(s): Anne Fletcher
Release date: 24th Jan 2013
Running time: 95 mins.
- Film review: BAD NEIGHBOURS, from Built For Speed
- Film review: SIGHTSEERS, from Built For Speed
- Film review: DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: THE LONG HAUL by Nick Gardener from Built For Speed
- Film review: THE TRIP TO ITALY, from Built For Speed
- Film review: VACATION, from ‘Built For Speed’