The pitch to the studios must have sounded perfect. Seth Rogen, that likeable schlub of a young comic actor, stuck in the car on a lengthy journey across the country accompanied by his overbearing mother, played of all people by… Barbra Streisand. It has to be the potential for the occasional moment of comic gold. Not so fast.
It’s around the thirty minute mark when you realize that The Guilt Trip is not going to be the comedy you think it was going to be. It’s consistently pleasant enough, and the bickering between mother and son is relatively amusing, but it’s never flat out funny. The film goes for poignancy when you’re expecting laughs and ends on a touching note that would have worked perfectly fine had it built up to it with some solid comedy, but doesn’t.
Rogen plays Andrew, a scientist who has developed an eco-friendly cleaning agent that not only cleans kitchens and appliances better than anything else on the market but you can also drink it, it’s that eco-friendly. Andrew is about to embark on a long journey across America, pitching his product to famous key marketing companies along the way. For good measure – and because of a secret meeting the son has arranged for his mother’s lost love at the end of the journey – Andrew, against his better judgment, invites mom along for the ride. “I’ll have to retouch my roots before we go,” she declares.
What works best is the surprisingly inspired pairing of Streisand and Rogen. Their relationship is the obvious center of the film, and together they make a truly convincing mother and son. The quibbles in the car have a genuine ad-libbed feel about them that is initially fun to watch, but it becomes all the more frustrating as the film, and the journey, continues, especially when you realize that the situations and the dialog are never going to rise above the basic, mild bickering that began the trip.
For all his eye-rolling it’s obvious Andrew loves his mother, and there’s no doubt his mother truly loves her son. When she asks him about his relationship, she shows frustration that her boy may continue to be alone. “I have been to the dance and I’m tired,” she states, then adds, “You’ve skipped the dance altogether.”
here’s a certain amount of fun to be had watching Rogen and Streisand together, but the film can’t help but disappoint when the marketing and hype presents The Guilt Trip as one thing but delivers something else. And when the radio advertising campaign searches the film’s soundtrack for a funny remark to air and ends up using a quote that actually comes from the outtakes and bloopers played during the end credits and not the film itself, you know there’s a problem.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 95 minutes Overall Rating: 5 (out of 10)