“The Guilt Trip” is a surprisingly smart comedy starring a memorable duo. Seth Rogen plays Andy, an only child and Barbra Streisand plays his mother Joyce. Andy’s a chemical engineer who’s invented an eco-friendly household cleaning product called Scieoclean that he believes is better than anything on the market. He now has to convince some major companies that he’s got a hot item that they should all have in their stores. So far he’s not been too successful. So he sets-up several interviews with big retail chains to pitch his product. The trip will take Andy cross-country, by car, and after learning a secret from his mother’s past, Andy invites her to join him on this journey.
This is a classic movie genre: the road buddy picture. But rarely are the “buddies” an adult son and his still overly-protective mother.
Lately Hollywood has been obsessed with raunchy comedies. While there is a little of that here, “The Guilt Trip”, this much more conventional, which is a welcome change. The humor mostly comes from the verbal exchanges between Rogen and Streisand, and a lot of it is quite funny and relatable. A scene involving Andy’s pitch to the Home Shopping Network is one of the film’s highlights. Credit goes to screenwriter Dan Fogelman, who’s best known for penning Disney animated films such as “Bolt” and “Tangled”, along with co-writing “Cars” and “Cars 2”.
One of Rogen’s strengths as a comedic actor is his ability to deliver sarcasm and he’s at the top of his game here. And Streisand, in her first non- “Focker” role since 1996’s “The Mirror Has Two Faces”, holds here own. There’s a sense of realism in the relationship between Andy and Joyce throughout. She embarrasses him, he disappoints her. They clearly love each other, but often their actions speak otherwise, not unlike a lot of mothers and sons. There’s good chemistry and solid timing between the two. Without it the film would have bombed because they’re in practically every scene together.
Director Anne Fletcher’s previous film, “The Proposal”, was a bit all-over-the-place. “The Guilt Trip” has a simple plot, but some layers develop as the trip progresses. This isn’t a laugh-out loud comedy. The humor is more subtle and things do get a little sentimental at times, but to everyone’s credit the film never goes too far in any direction.
“The Guilt Trip” is rated PG-13 for some language and adult material. It’s appropriate for teens and up. The trailers don’t make this out to be a winner, but this was actually one of the more pleasant surprises of 2012.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “The Guilt Trip” gets a B.