Now I know there are a few of you out there who are ready to heap a whole lot of derision onto this mother-son road trip film from the director of THE PROPOSAL, and if you really have your heart set on going that route, I won't stop you. THE GUILT TRIP isn't a great movie, there's no disputing that, but if you really want to take a dump on an end-of-year "comedy," please wait a week. I'll say no more. But this harmless whelp of a movie starring Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand as Andy and Joyce Brewster at least has a few laughs and more than a few rather poignant revelations about how we treat our parents and why. I know, right? It took me by surprise too, especially how infrequently Rogen lets loose with one of his patented chuckles. The film gets downright serious for brief moments, and I was surprised at how well these two worked together.
Andy is a chemist who has invented a cleaning product that is both made with non-toxic, organic elements and works better than standard cleaners. He sets up a series of meetings across the country, starting with New York and ending in Las Vegas. While in New York, he spends a few days with his mother where she coddles him, puts him on display for her friends, and treats him like he's somewhere in the neighborhood of 13-15 years old. During one particularly personal conversation, Joyce admits that she fell in love with a man before Andy's long-dead father, but that fate kept them apart (the other man's name was also Andy, which is just wrong). With a little digging, Andy finds out that his namesake is living in San Francisco, and he concocts an excuse to both take his trip to that city and drag his mother along for his business trip so she can be reunited with her former love. What could go wrong? Hilarity ensues.
OK, most of the jokes come from the most obvious places. Joyce tells stories about Andy as a youngster, ruins his pitch meetings by being too chatty, and has oodles of worthless advice. You may notice a pattern here: Joyce never shuts up. And if there's one overwhelming terrible thing about THE GUILT TRIP it's that Streisand lets prattling on pass as humor a few too many million times. Rogen, on the other hand, seem to substitute general fuming at his mother's behavior for actual jokes, but at least that's a change of pace for him. I'll admit, I'm always rooting for Streisand to come back in a serious way to films. At least here, she isn't playing the cartoonish Jewish mother she does in the MEET THE PARENTS/FOCKERS movies. There are a few more layers to her character in this work, but only a few.
There are some interesting/curious cameos from the likes of Colin Hanks, Yvonne Strahovski, Kathy Najimy, and Adam Scott that at least keep the scenery from getting too boring, and I liked the way the filmmakers wrapped things up in a slightly more believable way than most lame comedies that come out during the holiday season. THE GUILT TRIP is more or less safe to take the parents or grandparents to see, even though Babs is the one to drop the single F-bomb in this PG-13-rated wonderment. Basically, if you're thinking about checking out a film with the elders in the next week or so, and you don't think they can handle the sadness of LES MISERABLES, then THE GUILT TRIP should do the trick.