So it seems that we are entering the point of Seth Rogen’s career where he has not fallen into the realm of bland rom-coms, but where he is nestled safely in the “holiday-comedy” zone. That zone where you find this actor, that was awesomely funny not too long ago, in R-rated material, and now, after some years of being one of the Hollywood “it” guys, is paying the price to the Hollywood devil. That cost is The Guilt Trip, no pun intended. The Guilt Trip is also the return vehicle of Barbara Streisand to the starring marquee after 16 years out of the cinematic spotlight, excepting a few supporting turns as Roz Focker in the Fockers’ franchise. Maybe Streisand has a thing for playing Jewish mothers?
Andy Brewster is an inventor of cleaning products living in Los Angeles. He is attempting to find shelf space in several retail establishments for his new organic cleaning product. His mother, Joyce, is constantly smothering Andy all the way from home in New Jersey. On a trip home, Andy learns about a previous love from Joyce’s youth. Since Andy doesn’t want his mother to be alone, he tracks down this former flame and decides to take his mother on a cross-country sales trip to reunite the pair and rekindle the spark.
First off the title and trailers for this film are pretty misleading. There really is no guilt tripping in this movie. It’s more like a “buddy” road trip movie. Instead of best friends or a random “meet cute” situation rom-com, you have a single mother, that mothers a bit too much, and her man-child of a son. A lot of the movie is “paint-by-numbers” in terms of the plot. Joyce is just the right amount of annoying to Andy. Andy is just the right amount sarcastic to Joyce, or quick to be embarrassed by her antics. They get into fights at the right time, then make up, then get involved in a crazy stunt. Everything you would expect.
Seth Rogen isn’t really stretching here. What we get here is pretty standard Rogen, just like you’ve seen before. He makes his usual funny expressions, sticks to his standard sarcastic quips, but is still likable. You can buy him as the smart scientist guy that can’t close the sale and can’t really get his life together. It’s the same shtick we’ve been seeing from him throughout his career, but now it works better when he is the best friend, like in 50/50, than as the star of the movie. Barbara Streisand is alright, but she seems to be playing the perfect cartoon rendition of the Jewish mother, more than playing a real character. There a few bright spots where she stretches the thin material and you get some feeling that there is more to Joyce than making sure Andy has new slacks that were purchased on sale from the GAP. Sadly, those moments are few and far between.
This is not to say that the movie is terrible, it’s not. It hits the right notes at the right times. You’re going to get your heart-strings tugged. You’ll probably chuckle a few times as you watch it. In the end, The Guilt Trip is a pretty good comedy, even if you’ve seen the same thing a hundred times before, but it may not be one you rush out to see. The Guilt Trip might be best viewed on a lazy Sunday afternoon, maybe on a visit with your mother.