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Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Guilt Trip

Another new movie and another one also up at Channel 24. Don't worry, I'm sure I'll have more old reviews soon!

What it's about

A chemical biologist (Seth Rogen) travels across country with his mother (Barbara Streisand) to reunite his mother with her long lost love and to finally find a buyer for his revolutionary new cleaning product.

What we thought

At the outset, there is little that isn't terrifying about the idea of spending an hour and a half on a cross-country road trip with Seth Rogen and Barbara Streisand, especially with the latter in full-on stereotypical Jewish-mother-mode. Not that there's anything particularly wrong with either Rogen or Streisand (I especially don't get the hate that Seth Rogen so often gets) but given the wrong material, they can both be very, very annoying and a film with so hysterical a title as “The Guilt Trip” doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

The bad news then is that Streisand is unfortunately often unbearable as she takes the neurotic yiddishe mama stereotype to screamingly overbearing extremes. It's especially hard to buy into her alienation from her son – which happens to be the central theme on which the whole film hangs – as she does come across as little more than an unbelievable cartoon character. This would be fine, of course, if her character was particularly funny – see George Costanza's absurdly overbearing mother on Seinfeld, for example – but the writing here is very far indeed from the hilarious heights of Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld at their best.

And frankly, there really is no getting past it: for a film that is billed at least partially as a comedy, The Guilt Trip is woefully low on laughs. It has a few chuckles and smirks spread out throughout the film, but a few titters do not a great comedy make.

All this said though, The Guilt Trip is, in the end, a weak film but it's far from terrible. While the first half of the film does try the patience every single time Streisand appears on screen, Rogen is actually perfectly likeable as a decent, hard-working schlub trying his best to make his mark on a world that just won't listen to him and even if he does come across as a total dick to his mother from time to time, it's hard to particularly hold it against him when you consider that the woman in question is basically a mix of Fran's mother from The Nanny and Daffy Duck.

For Streisand fans, though, there is some good news to be had. Yes, she – or, more accurately, her character – is indeed utterly awful for the first half a film, but there is a point in the middle of the road trip where she and her son have a massive blow-out and, for some weird reason, from that point on she starts to resemble an actual human being. You might even start to like her. Either way, though, this major (if somewhat inexplicable) transformation does mean that the film does steadily become more enjoyable as it goes along – which is something of a rarity when you consider that most mediocre films tend to get worse, not better.

It gets so much better, in fact, that, by the time the credits roll, you may well be fooled into thinking that the whole film was actually pretty enjoyable. It isn't though; not really. The Guilt Trip is a film that is more likely to be forgotten than reviled and it may even pass the time well enough, but its drama is unconvincing, its comedy flat and, with one of its two major characters barely bearable for the first half of the film, it's not even particularly pleasant as a piece of fluff.

South Africans, click here to book now or to view showtimes.

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