Guess what you’re doing with mom this weekend.
Well, it was bound to happen at some point. Hollywood made a film that sons have no excuse not to see with their mothers, and now that I’ve written that, you’re all going to be getting phone calls in about five minutes.
Not only is The Guilt Trip a movie that fills in the niche of holiday-season-comedy-not-focused-on-holidays, but it also seems to be banking on the fact that it can appeal to two generations by casting a film icon from each of those generations, Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen, opposite of each other. It’s a risky all-or-nothing approach trying to cast so wide a net, but that’s the only thing risky about The Guilt Trip. Otherwise, it’s a tried-and-true formula that plays it safe.
In what might be the oddest buddy comedy in film history (excluding the one with Tom Hanks and that dog), Streisand and Rogen come together to form a surprisingly dynamic duo. The two play mother and son, and circumstances find them traveling across the country. This, of course, leads to plenty of little scenes in which the two shoot one-liners back and forth.
They share great chemistry on screen (Rogen’s character is a chemist… get it?) and director Anne Fletcher really plays to their strengths. Streisand is the overbearing mother who is eager to spend time with her son, the only man she needs in her life. Meanwhile, Rogen is the underdog we can all root for, in whom we may even see a little of ourselves. He’s just charming enough and awkward enough to appear as a nonthreatening lead.
The Guilt Trip tries to deliver a little bit of bubblegum psychology in the form of universal themes spit out in pop-psych lessons from Streisand. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before, and at times it might even be a little mind-numbing listening to her sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong (remember, this is from a son’s perspective), but that might be just because it’s so reminiscent of how mothers can drive everyone crazy. The movie is pretty effective in its characterizations, or at least in portraying how both parties probably see each other.
The Guilt Trip is a predictable little flick, and it gets almost painfully so toward the end. The emotional climax is not exactly a nail-biter. However, it does what it’s meant to do – it creates an awkward but touching, not to mention hilarious, atmosphere – and it’s probably one of the best films in a year at doing it. It’s not a Disney movie that grown men will roll their eyes at, and it’s not a gross-out comedy that will make mothers squirm with discomfort and disappointment. It’s probably the perfect date movie for young men and their moms, which means it’s worth it for the brownie points alone to check out this one. It’s neither star’s best work, but that’s to be expected around this time of year. Luckily, this is a perfect middle-of-the-road film.