Guilt Trip has one joke: The people in it are incessantly annoying. We open on Barbra Streisand waking up, and immediately phoning her son played by Seth Rogen. She calls again. And again. And yet again. For the entirety of the opening credits, Streisand rambles on in dubbed dialogue, merely the opening prelude to scattered strings of one-sided conversation, only slightly more pleasant than having a shotgun fired towards your ear.
Rogen is Andrew Brewster, a hyper intelligent, socially misaligned chemist with a sure fire hit in his natural, FDA approved cleaning solution. With no job and dwindling funds, he sets off on a cross-country journey to try and dump the stuff on notable retailers, in addition to the many more who stuff this clunker with product placement. In a moment of distraction, he decides to bring his mouthy mother along, the type of character best fit for a background role, only here she drives.
Cue 90-minutes of listening to people who never shut up in an enclosed space while being completely oblivious to each others needs. It’s almost as if these two people are not related…
Guilt Trip follows a road, although not any that run from New Jersey to San Francisco, rather the pathway this script was carved from. Emotional outbursts and disagreements? Yep. Utterly pointless romantic interludes that fail to serve the story? Certainly. What about the inevitable quirky situation that awkwardly places the leads out of their element? More than one can count.
The film also splurges on absurd green screen locations, trying to pass off the flattest Grand Canyon on movie record as authentic, and in-car scenes that obviously never left the studio. On the positive side, that means neither of these characters had to be seen anywhere other than the California shooting locations. Their insufferable infection stayed put.
Guilt Trip should be about mom, and what she means to us in terms of our personal lives. Andrew is supposed to be the jerk, the one who shuns her advice and comes to accept her eccentricities in due time. Instead, it backfires conceptually. Andrew blows up in a hotel room after she ruined a presentation, and… yeah, Andrew is in the right despite being equally detestable as a character. This women, despite her generosity and harmlessness, it not likeable. She is obnoxious, oblivious, and as loud as Chris Tucker without any of the comedic wit. Be thankful this dud is only 90-minutes.
There is a lot happening within Guilt Trip’s video, little of it offering positivity. As if Streisand wasn’t irritating enough, the film-based source is inconsistently hit with noise reduction to reduce the appearance of wrinkles or other age marks. Only a handful of actresses’ close-ups offer fidelity, most rendered flat with obvious smoothing or distracting digital after effects.
Photography is bland, with most of it sitting a camera at the hood of a green screened car. It’s dull and static, without the opportunity to present rich definition. Medium shots are just sort of there, general sharpness merely passable with focal effects adding to the lack of crispness.
Resolution never appears striking despite the encode from Paramount working to keep the light grain structure at bay. A handful of establishing shots are impressive, although the cityscapes appear to be stock footage. Some aliasing will mar early images of New Jersey. High contrast edges can display ringing, if only to compound the issues.
Guilt Trip is light comedy, little relying on extensive depth so the workable black levels never appeal to be anything more. Colors are much the same, merely adequate with natural flesh tones and satisfying primaries. It clicks without trying hard, and avoids barren, two tone palettes.
If you want to hear two people yammer at each other in your center channel, this is the disc you’re looking for. Short of a small party and some cheering from a receptive restaurant audience, this one clamps down on the center for 90 straight minutes. Sound design is as dead as it can be while still being considered for 5.1 mixing.
Even with the expectations of a routine comedy, Guilt Trip (ironically) never finds its sonic voice, nor does it try. Nothing is aggressive, splits the stereos, or seeps into the surrounds. How boring, if no fault of the DTS-HD mix on the disc.
Blatant promotional drivel passes off as extras here, with the first three celebrating the cast and director. Barbra and Seth, Barbra’s World, and In the Driver’s Seat are all skippable at around 22-minutes of wasted material. Real Mother of a Road Trip follows the writer’s life experience of a similar story, although hopefully one less obnoxious. Not a Real Road Trip Movie details the sets and special effects that so rarely bring the cross-country journey to life.
Alternate openings and endings should be in with the 20-minutes of deleted scenes, but here they remain separate. A short gag reel is the only thing worth a watch.