Thursday, January 24, 2013

Guilty as Charged

On the surface, I appear to be the perfect audience for Anne Fletcher's mother/son road trip comedy The Guilt Trip. I love Barbra Streisand on screen, I'm one of the few who adores Seth Rogen and finds him both charming and curiously attractive, and I occasionally (perhaps too often) have a penchant for this sort of lightweight comedy. It shouldn't surprise then that I came out of The Guilt Trip without having the sever allergic reaction that many others have had. I certainly don't think it's the cinematic road kill that others have claimed, but for a film that's so curiously pitched at vastly different audience different audiences (Streisand fans and Rogen fans are not typically the kind to sit together on lunch break) it manages enough sweetness to get by.

Streisand has been nominated for a Razzie for this performance, which is hardly surprising given that award body's seemingly tireless effort to be even lazier than people claim the Oscars to be. As the overtly Jewish Mother (I'm sure the filmmakers would capitalise if it they could so I'll do it for them) of the picture she's perfectly fine and doesn't really add anything to the role that isn't there on the page - she has a particularly wonderful moment at the house of Adam Scott's character as she uncovers the truth behind her first true love - but it's Rogen who, along with Take This Waltz, proves to be a warm screen presence when in the absense of marijuana and his Apatow cronies. The Guilt Trip is visually unspectacular and lord only knows where that $40mil budget was spent - on location filming, I presume, but who can really tell? - but if the film ultimately lacks the zest that Fletcher's 27 Dresses, The Proposal, and Step Up had, then that's at least partially made up for with the actors. Why on Earth the screenwriter thought the story of a mother teaching her grown up son how to sell environmentally friendly detergent was something worth endeavouring with is something I can't answer, but the final product seems to come and go without offending. B-

Speaking of Apatow, lodged somewhere in the middle of Rogen and Streisand's age brackets is This Is 40. Despite its shinier exterior and more appropriately matched cast, I can't recommend this over-long, scattershot comedy of middle-aged woes. Chucklesome more than funny, and only ever in fits and spurts, This is 40 gets off on the wrong foot almost instantaneously with its two stars, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, arguing over his use of an erectile stimulant. The film is over two hours of continual "greatest hits of adulthood" as these two go from situation to situation with little connecting tissue. A plot involving Rudd's record label (!!!) is handled in a particularly unsatisfying way, and the film's connection to Knocked Up causes frustrations that only intensify once the credits role. Why aren't Rogen and Katherine Heigl's characters here? I mean, they're related to them and they don't show up to the birthday party? In fact, the only character from Knocked Up to return is Charlene Yi's pot-smoker, who is somehow given the responsibility of babysitting and as a salesgirl at Mann's vintage clothing store. That scripting decision alone is enough to tell you how under-developed This is 40 is. C-

1 comment:

Chad Walters said...

Minor point: Jason Segal's character and the OB-GYN are also from Knocked Up, and Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen were referenced (though their non-appearance at the birthday party is a little strange).