×

The Guilt Trip

Pairing Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen as a neurotic New Jersey mother-son odd couple, then sending the two on a road trip through Texas and the South, Anne Fletcher's "The Guilt Trip" would seem to have uncovered some rarely tapped veins of Oedipal and culture-clash comedy.

With:
Joyce Brewster - Barbra Streisand
Andrew Brewster - Seth Rogen
Ben Graw - Brett Cullen
Rob - Colin Hanks
Andrew Margolis Jr. - Adam Scott
Anita - Miriam Margolyes
Gayle - Kathy Najimy
Amy - Nora Dunn
Jessica - Yvonne Strahovski

Pairing Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen as a neurotic New Jersey mother-son odd couple, then sending the two on a road trip through Texas and the South, Anne Fletcher’s “The Guilt Trip” would seem to have uncovered some rarely tapped veins of Oedipal and culture-clash comedy. Yet the film scarcely bothers to mine them, making for a timid, modestly pleasant time-passer distinguished mostly by its unexplored potential. All the same, the attraction of seeing Streisand in her first non-“Fockers” role in more than a decade, as well as the general dearth of grandma-friendly comedies, should generate healthy holiday weekend business.

Dialing down his zaniness, if not his volume, Rogen plays Andy, a permanently flustered Los Angeles-based organic chemist who’s ready to launch his years-in-the-making invention, a cleaning product whose easily mispronounced name (Scioclean) poses the first of his many problems in pitching it to wholesalers. As a last-ditch marketing ploy, Andy plots a weeklong road trip to hawk his wares at company HQs across the country, starting with his hometown in New Jersey.

While there, he stops to visit his loquacious, long-widowed mother, Joyce (Streisand). Displaying all the general tendencies of a stereotypical Jewish mother with none of the cultural specifics, the overprotective, oversharing Joyce is allegedly responsible for Andy’s adult neuroses, though we rarely see her venture beyond typical motherly meddling. In any case, Andy whines through the visit until he’s about to head off, when he abruptly finds himself moved by his mother’s loneliness and revelations of a long-ago lost love, and invites her along for the journey.

Perhaps the biggest problem here is that “The Guilt Trip” is one of the most homebound road movies in recent memory, mostly alternating between motel rooms and cramped car seats, with little sense of forward momentum. When Dan Fogelman’s script does pause to build up a potential setpiece — dropping the twosome into a snowstorm, a steakhouse eating competition or Andy’s ex-girlfriend’s house — it tends to lose its nerve and simply moves on, never nudging its characters far enough past the borders of propriety to generate real laughs. In particular, to include a scene in which Streisand and Rogen are stranded at a strip club for hours, without even attempting a joke at its expense, should be a cinematic crime.

Helmer Anne Fletcher (“The Proposal,” “27 Dresses”) does achieve some genuine moments of warmth, and Streisand is consistently adorable in her tastefully dowdy duds, conveying the requisite amount of Babsiness without getting too fabulous for the character. Rogen, for his part, never quite finds the right rhythm for Andy, and often veers toward one-note irritation, although his disastrous pitch meetings eventually allow him the freedom to unleash his bellowing frustrations. (The film is chockablock with product placements, but these recurring pitch scenes provide some particularly canny, plot-friendly uses, allowing real-life companies — K-Mart, Orchard, Costco, et al. — to decline Andy’s invention by referencing the high standards of the many fine products they already offer. The shamelessness is almost admirable.)

A two-hander through and through, the pic carves out some moderate breathing room for Brett Cullen as a handsome Texan suitor and Kathy Najimy as a Jersey housewife, though most other characters are strictly relegated to scenery. Technical specs are all suitably professional, if never particularly distinguished.

Popular on Variety

The Guilt Trip

Production: A Paramount release of a Paramount Pictures and Skydance Prods. presentation of a Michaels/Goldwyn production. Produced by Lorne Michaels, John Goldwyn, Evan Goldberg. Executive producers, Seth Rogen, Barbra Streisand, Mary McLaglen, Dan Fogelman, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Paul Schwake. Directed by Anne Fletcher. Screenplay, Dan Fogelman.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Oliver Stapleton; editors, Priscilla Nedd Friendly, Dana E. Glauberman; music, Christophe Beck; music supervisor, Buck Damon; production designer, Nelson Coates; costume designer, Danny Glicker; art director, David Lazan; set decorator, Karen O'Hara; sound (Dolby/Datasat), Peter J. Devlin; supervising sound editor, Karen Baker Landers; re-recording mixers, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell; visual effects supervisors, Jamie Dixon, Clark Parkhurst; visual effects, Hammerhead Prods., Lola VFX; assistant director, Joe Camp III; casting, Cathy Sandrich Gelfond, Amanda Mackey. Reviewed at Paramount Studios, Los Angeles, Dec. 6, 2012. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: Joyce Brewster - Barbra Streisand
Andrew Brewster - Seth Rogen
Ben Graw - Brett Cullen
Rob - Colin Hanks
Andrew Margolis Jr. - Adam Scott
Anita - Miriam Margolyes
Gayle - Kathy Najimy
Amy - Nora Dunn
Jessica - Yvonne Strahovski

More Film

  • Refugees from the besieged Muslim enclave

    Sarajevo’s True Stories Market: Documenting the Atrocities of War

    Reconciliation and dealing with the tragedies of the Yugoslav Wars has been a major focus of the Sarajevo Film Festival and its CineLink Industry Days event in recent years. The True Stories Market, launched in 2016, aims to connect filmmakers with organizations that are researching and documenting the Yugoslav Wars that spanned 1991 to 2001 [...]

  • Ena Sendijarevic’s ‘Take Me Somewhere Nice’

    Ena Sendijarevic’s ‘Take Me Somewhere Nice’ Wins Top Prize in Sarajevo

    “Take Me Somewhere Nice,” Bosnian director Ena Sendijarević’s coming-of-age story about a teen raised in the Netherlands who returns to Bosnia to visit her ailing father, won the top prize at the Sarajevo Film Festival Thursday night, earning the Amsterdam-based helmer the coveted Heart of Sarajevo Award. The jury heralded the “beautifully photographed, acted, scripted [...]

  • Khadar Ahmed - BUFO - photo

    Bufo Sets Key Cast for Co-Production ‘The Gravedigger' (EXCLUSIVE)

    HAUGESUND, Norway  —   Actor Omar Abdi, who starred in the Ahmed-scripted short “Citizens,” and actress Yasmin Warsame, who made her name as a Canadian model, will topline romantic-tragedy “The Gravedigger,” the latest big screen project from Bufo, the Helsinki-based outfit behind Berlinale winner “The Other Side of Hope.” The film follows a Djibouti gravedigger [...]

  • Jacobs Ladder Movie 2019

    Film Review: 'Jacob's Ladder'

    It’s understandable that someone would want to remake “Jacob’s Ladder,” Adrian Lyne’s 1990 head-trip thriller about a Vietnam veteran haunted by fragmentary nightmare visions. I was far from alone in finding the original to be an overwrought but rather thin “psychological” horror film that was more punishing than pleasurable. And it wasn’t exactly a hit, [...]

  • Fiddler A Miracle of Miracles

    Film Review: 'Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles'

    Still beloved and routinely revived 55 years after its Broadway debut — including a Yiddish-language version now playing in New York — “Fiddler on the Roof” is a popular phenomenon that shows no sign of subsiding. Max Lewkowicz’s “Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles” provides an entertaining if hardly exhaustive overview of how the unlikely success [...]

  • 'Weathering With You' Heads for $100

    'Weathering With You' Heads for $100 Million Box Office Haul

    Makoto Shinkai’s animated romantic drama “Weathering with You” passed the JPY10 billion ($94 million) mark in Japan on Wednesday, according to an announcement by distributor Toho. This makes it the tenth-highest earning Japanese film of all time. Since its release on July 19 on 448 screens in 359 complexes, the film has racked up 7.52 million admissions. The [...]

  • Burn review

    Film Review: 'Burn'

    There’s more smoke than fire in “Burn,” a reasonably promising single-location thriller that never quite settles on what it wants to be — a straight-up suspense piece, twisty black comedy, oddball character study, etc. “All the above” would be a tall but not impossible order to pull off. The problem is that writer-director Mike Gan’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content