Blu-ray Review: ‘The Guilt Trip’ Marred by Maddeningly Formulaic Script

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CHICAGO – “The Guilt Trip” is hideously uninspired dreck of the most shameful variety. It casts two major yet mismatched talents and refuses to utilize their distinctive gifts for the entirety of its running time. All they’re required to do is sleepwalk through a plot so uninspired that audiences will have no problem predicting its path with their eyes closed and their ears covered.

Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen certainly rank as one of the least convincing mother-son duos in movie history. There wasn’t a single instant in which I believed that this unlikely pair were related in any way, apart from sharing the same frame. Rogen does a nice job of portraying the squirmy straightman, but Streisand is such a cartoonish caricature of smothering mother love that she appears to have been spawned directly from a petri dish of clichés. She’s as believable a mother as Patricia Heaton is a Midwesterner. Blu-ray Rating: 1.0/5.0
Blu-ray Rating: 1.0/5.0

Every flaw can be attributed to the script by Dan Fogelman, a writer who has done some good work in the past, such as 2011’s delightful rom-com, “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” On this Blu-ray disc’s bountiful array of featurettes, Fogelman reveals that the script is in fact largely autobiographical, with many set-pieces taken directly from the road trip he embarked on with his own mother (who was a big Streisand fan). Perhaps Fogelman was too close to the material to spot its contrivances. No matter what the inspiration is for these scenes, they are all drained of spontaneity the instant they’re stitched into a manufactured formula. The reasons Fogelman’s script conjures for Rogen’s struggling inventor to drag his quirky mother into pitch meeting after pitch meeting are beyond idiotic. How are viewers supposed to relate to these characters if their every step is rendered implausible? When Streisand is hit on by a dashing cowboy (Brett Cullen) fresh out of a toothpaste commercial, are we really supposed to believe that she’s destined to find love elsewhere? The story threads planted to elicit tears during the final act are so glaringly obvious that they inspire mere agitation. This isn’t really a movie at all, just a series of corporate tie-ins for Budget car rentals and Oprah Book Club selections, with a soundtrack designed to layer on excessive exposition. When Rogen’s invention is turned down after yet another failed pitch, a song materializes just long enough to offer lyrics like, “I need a dollar!” Boy, without that song, how could we possibly know what’s going on in Rogen’s head?

The Guilt Trip was released on Blu-ray and DVD on April 30th, 2013.
The Guilt Trip was released on Blu-ray and DVD on April 30th, 2013.
Photo credit: Paramount Home Media Distribution

The director of this travesty is Anne Fletcher, a bubbly crowd-pleaser who is known to literally dance through her sets during production (she’s choreographed a great many scenes, including the unforgettable finale in “The 40 Year Old Virgin”). She’s certainly capable of putting together an enjoyable slice of escapism (such as “The Proposal” or the original “Step Up”), but none of her natural exuberance bolsters the dreary routine nature of this airbrushed star vehicle. If this is all Hollywood has to offer us, no wonder it fears extinction in an era of Kickstarter campaigns and microbudget megahits.

“The Guilt Trip” is presented in 1080p High Definition (with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio), accompanied by English, Spanish, French and Portuguese audio tracks and is available in a Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo pack. Extras include 20 minutes of deleted scenes and a gag reel that prove all the fun was left on the cutting room floor. Fletcher compares Rogen to a young Albert Brooks, thus evoking memories of Brooks’s own 1996 comedy about a mother and son. It’s called “Mother,” and pairs Brooks with the incomparable Debbie Reynolds. Not only is it one of the funniest films ever made about the complicated relationship between parents and children, but it’s also one of the most insightful. See it by any means necessary.

‘The Guilt Trip’ is released by Paramount Home Media Distribution and stars Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen. It was written by Dan Fogelman and directed by Anne Fletcher. It was released on April 30th, 2013. It is rated PG-13. staff writer Matt Fagerholm

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