Sometimes a movie comes along and I’ve just got no idea who it’s meant for. Anne Fletcher’s The Guilt Trip lies firmly within that realm. It’s the kind of feel-good comedic pap that gets fobbed off around the holidays, but lacks any real heart or warmth. Starring almost exclusively Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand, the movie verges on quaint, and misses out on whacky. Honestly, The Guilt Trip isn’t much of anything at all — except just a movie by definition alone.
Working inside a road trip/odd couple premise, we find Andrew (Seth Rogen), a socially awkward chemist who’s invented some sort of all-organic cleaning agent with a wonky name that we’re told is revolutionary. He’s running around the country, trying — ineffectively, I might add — to sell the stuff to various big-box chain stores. Running out of money and making one last go of it, he visits his overbearing, somewhat obnoxious mother, Joyce (Barbra Streisand), and — after hearing her story of a long lost love — decides to take her with him as a means of sneakily reuniting Joyce with her old flame — despite the fact that he finds mom generally embarrassing and clingy.
From here on, the movie is exactly what you expect it to be with hi-jinks (Babs eats a four-pound steak) and familial understandings popping up here and there. Much of the plot is set up within the formula of a rom-com (though thankfully not as creepy as that sounds), with various misunderstandings and reconciliations along the way. Despite its PG-13 rating for “language and some risqué material” (these days “risqué” equates to one scene inside one of those preposterous movie strip clubs where everyone’s naughty bits are covered up, and I guess one unfortunate rape joke that’s in the trailer), The Guilt Trip is too focused on not offending — or maybe pleasing — Babs’ audience to be funny.
All this does is keep the movie from entering the realm of unfunny or even actively awful (like, say, a certain film about a racist, misogynistic talking teddy bear). But this doesn’t make The Guilt Trip a film worth the time or effort of passively sitting through. Rated PG-13 for language and some risqué material.
Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Asheville Cinema 14, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande