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Project 52: 'The Guilt Trip'

Posted Friday, May 31, 2013 at 4:25 PM Central
Last updated Friday, May 31, 2013 at 4:25 PM Central

by John Couture

On paper teaming up Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand in a road-trip comedy sounds like such a good idea that it just had to be bad, right? Well, that's what I thought when I started to see the trailers for this film, but much like judging a book, you shouldn't pass judgment on a movie by its trailer.

Either that or the studio needs to make better trailer, but that's a whole other story altogether.

So when this film was playing on our vacation, I thought I would have it on in the background while I read my book. Little did I know that I wouldn't get any reading done that night.

The Guilt Trip

Perhaps it was the fact that the film hits a bit close to home (strongly opinionated mother, living 10 hours from her), but I found The Guilt Trip to be highly entertaining in much the same way that anything with Seth Rogen is instantly watchable. However, it was the performance turned in by Streisand that truly stood out for me.

Before I start gushing, this film is far from perfect. It's a road trip film and a dysfunctional family film rolled into one. So, you know going in what you're going to get, pretty much. So, it starts off with a much lower ceiling (and I suppose by extension lower expectations).

That being said, I found that the film packed with more laughs into its 95 minutes than most of the films released last year combined. Not the raunchy hard R variety that Rogen is better known for, but more like the family variety that is becoming a lost art form.

There's nothing wrong with the Hangovers or Teds of the world, and I love them as well. But, it just seems that Hollywood becomes infatuated with one type of film and then neglects the others until our tastes change. Of course, the performance of The Hangover Part III at the box office might have finally been the last nail in that coffin, but I hope Hollywood doesn't throw out the baby with the dishwater.

The fact is that there's plenty of room in Hollywood for both, but we don't need to keep adding sequels to films until we start to loathe the original film for starting the madness. It's OK to simply stop after the first one, or even the second one if it didn't do as well as you hoped.

Unless, of course, you're talking about the Fast and Furious franchise, then by all means, keep shoving sequels down your fans throats. I mean they have to get full at some point, don't they?

But much like a road trip across the country, I've lost my way and it's time to get back on track. The first thing about the film that you discover is that there's more plot than any of the trailers hint at and, quite frankly, that you'd expect from a typical road trip film.

Going in, I was convinced that this would simply be another lame attempt to try and capture the lightning in the bottle that were films like The Cannonball Run and Smokey and the Bandit. Right off the bat, I was thrown a curve ball when they didn't rush to get on the road.

That's the mistake that I think many road trip films make. They are so eager to get on the road that they fail to take the time necessary to build up character development. In The Guilt Trip they use this time well, as Rogen's Andy learns that his widowed mother actually pined for another man when she was dating his father and even named him after her ex-lover.

So, despite the clever title, this film isn't so much about a Guilt Trip as it's about a son who sees an opportunity to provide his mother the one piece of happiness that she's been depriving herself of all these years. This noble element of the trip suddenly casts Andy as a character that you want to cheer for, especially as he goes out and fails miserably time and again pitching his new cleaning product.

Along the way, the path is filled with unique characters and there's plenty for Joyce, Streisand's character, to learn about her son as well. There are quite a few lessons learned along the way and the jokes never get in the way of the surprisingly poignant moments that will leave you thinking about your own relationship with your mom.

At the end of the day, the comedy is light and refreshing and even leaves you with a feeling of warmth. I wasn't really expecting that at all. I thought for sure that we were going to experience the ignorant mother being tormented by the hellish ways of her child and her own reflection about what that says about her child-rearing abilities. What you have is a film that is flawed, certainly, but not as flawed as many others that I have watched recent.

I give The Guilt Trip a solid flush.