The Guilt Trip represents a turning point in the career of Seth Rogen, and it’s not exactly a turn most of his fans will be welcoming with open arms. You see, it’s not a dramatic turn, and I can’t quite say it’s a comedic turn, either. It’s his turn to an even wider mainstream audience (his films have garnered huge box office and critical praise in the past, so this isn’t a break out), an audience I like to call the “Grandparents Demographic”, because it’s the type of movie old people will go to see, and the type that young people won’t be afraid to go see with their parents, grandparents, younger kids, and every other slack-jaw currently wandering through retail outlets at the moment.
So Christmas is the perfect time to open a movie like this, with Rogen pandering to anyone with money, and Barbra Streisand trying to remind everyone that no, she’s not dead. For whatever reason, Dan Fogelman‘s script (the guy behind Cars, Cars 2, Bolt, Tangled, and Crazy. Stupid. Love.) was the one that made her decide to return from an extended Hollywood absence (she’s only made Fokker movies since the 90’s) and I’ve gotta say I’m not sure why. It’s not particularly bright, funny, or heartwarming. It made me smirk on occasion, but other than that, it had me baffled as to why she chose this to return with, other than her possibly needing another vacation home. I’m not as baffled as to why Rogen did the film, as I’m sure he did it as a way to not only make money, but to get a passion project (like This is the End, maybe?) made more easily. You know, like the “one for them, one for us” theory of Damon/Affleck from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. It makes sense, even if it’s disappointing to see.
The film centers on Andy (Rogen), a young chemist/inventor who has a new product to bring to market. As he goes around pitching his project to potential retail clients (K-Mart, Costco, etc) he comes up with a plan to make his mother Joy (Streisand) happy. He decides to bring her along on his pitching trip in an effort to set her up with an old boyfriend she lost contact with years ago. What follows is the two on a road trip driving each other nuts (mostly via obnoxious Streisand-approved humor) and coming to a better understanding of each other.
However, most of the jokes fall pretty flat (unless you are under 10 or over 50), the plot is ridiculously predictable, and the script is so painfully obvious it basically shoots any goodwill earned via the smirk-worthy moments directly in the foot. I’m sure the studio is very pleased with Seth Rogen‘s performance, he plays the affable, slightly responsible, but dorky guy well and since children and old people probably haven’t seen most of his previous work, I suppose this is some sort of an introduction for him. He handles the role well, but for those of us that have seen his other work, it’s an incredibly restrained role, although the responsible aspect is in fact quite different from everything else he’s done.
Streisand plays the slightly varied version of herself that she plays in pretty much everything she feels the need to grace with her presence with, so she pretty much nails expectations. All in all, the movie is good for the family (my 9 year old step-son thought it was hilarious) and if you’re looking for something to show your grandmother why you like Seth Rogen so much, this is the perfect movie to do that with. Barbra Streisand fans will get exactly what they want, but anyone expecting Pineapple Express–style hilarity from Rogen will be severely disappointed. Mild is the perfect word to describe this comedy, and that’s what makes it the perfect movie to release right before Christmas.