The Guilt Trip

Directed By: Anne Fletcher

Starring: Seth Rogen, Barbra Streisand, Yvonne Strahovski, Adam Scott, Colin Hanks, Danny Pudi, Kathy Najimy, and Casey Rose Wilson

You've got to really be comfortable with somebody to go on a road trip with them.  You're stuck with him or her for days without end in a tight space.  Once you're in the car, there's no escape.  I've had good road trips, and I've had some rough ones.  I speak from experience when I say that you will get to know all a person's quirks on the road.  Friends and family alike become enemies when that car door locks and there's nothing but road ahead.  Anne Fletcher is looking to capitalize on the nature of road trips with her new mother-son comedy The Guilt Trip.

Andy Brewster (Seth Rogen) is an organic chemist who has invented an all-natural cleaning product named Scieoclean.  It's so clean and non-hazardous that you can drink it.  The only problem is that Andy can't sell it.  He bombs every sales pitch, including one with K-Mart, by delving into the science behind this all natural product and not appealing to ordinary consumers.  After visiting his mother Joyce (Barbra Streisand) in New Jersey, he plans on tackling a road trip that will take him across the country to Texas and Las Vegas.  He'll make pitches to companies like Costco and the Home Shopping Network (HSN) to try to bring his failing product Scieoclean to the marketplace.

In the meantime, Seth has arrived in New Jersey to visit his mother Joyce.  After weeks of her plaguing him with incessant, nagging voicemail messages, all of which he has deleted, he now gets to once again experience his overzealous mom in person.  Things go awry very quickly for these two.  One night however, they have a heart-to-heart conversation thanks to his mom's therapist Anita.  She tells Andy that she named him after one of her boyfriends, a man she once loved by the name of Andy Margolis.  Curious about the man after whom he was named, he researches him and learns that he lives in San Francisco.  With that in mind, Andy adds one more stop to his road trip and invites his mother Joyce along with him.

The Guilt Trip is one annoying road trip movie.  This is mostly due to the fact that stars Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand have very little comedic chemistry.  Their brands of humor don't gel well despite decent mother-son chemistry.  As nerdy organic chemist Andy Brewster, Rogen gives an understated performance that requires subtle, dry humor.  That's not his specialty, and it shows on screen.  His attempts at witty humor are far more irritating than funny.  He’s better when he’s wild and raunchy.  Given her heavy New York accent and diva-like tendencies in character, Streisand doesn't do justice to the suburban New Jersey mom Joyce Brewster.  She can't portray this boring little old lady with consistency, and this compromises her ability to deliver big laughs throughout The Guilt Trip.

Director Anne Fletcher really drops the ball in this flick as well.  The comedy arcs are totally underdeveloped.  Fletcher just begins setting up comedic situations and skips to what she would envision to be the funny part.  For instance, Streisand goes to a singles mixer in the early part of the film.  Instead of building an uneasiness and tension that could culminate in big laughs, Fletcher delves right into Streisand completely and utterly rejecting any and every man who comes her way.  As a result, Fletcher falls flat in delivering big laughs in this scene and many others.  She could have done so much with Streisand's idle time at the mixer, especially with some Peanut M&M's.  Beyond this, everything in the film is predictable.  If I can see a joke or punch line coming, nine times out of ten it won't be funny.  Surprises are a key ingredient for comedy, and this film lacks them altogether thanks to Fletcher.

There are lots of missed opportunities in The Guilt Trip.  Rogen, Streisand, and Fletcher can all share the blame for this failure of a comedy.  With this in mind, I would recommend you don't waste your time on this flick during the holiday season.  There are plenty of other good movies out right now.  If you do, grab some vodka martinis to get through this one.  I'd also recommend some peanut M&M's on the side.  The Guilt Trip gets a 0.09% rating.