Movie review: 'The Guilt Trip' is long and tedious

05:00 AM, Dec 20, 2012

Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen play mother and son in The Guilt Trip. (SAM EMERSON//provided by Paramount Pictures)/

Written By Todd McCarthy | The Hollywood Reporter

The Guilt Trip is a creakily old-fashioned comedy that forgot to pack the laughs along with the kvetching. Possibly the first American film in decades in which characters drive cross-country courtesy of process shots out the back window, this mother-son yakfest blows a gasket before it even hits the road.

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With Seth Rogen in very subdued mode, his fans will smell this one a mile away. This is a movie for their mothers — or die-hard Barbra Streisand fans.

When was the last time an overbearing Jewish mom giving her schlemiel of a son a hard time about not being married was a major component of a big Hollywood film? This sort of routine used to pop up all the time in American comedy but pretty much has vanished since the heyday of Ruth Gordon. So to behold Streisand’s New York mom Joyce Brewster hectoring her homely visiting son Andrew (Rogen) about his myriad personal shortcomings is to revisit a musty mindset that the minor updates in Dan Fogelman’s woeful script can’t begin to freshen.

When Andrew returns, he knows what he’s in for. But that still doesn’t help when Mom immediately starts asking what happened to former girlfriends, complaining about him moving 3,000 miles away, pointing out that she hasn’t had a date since her husband’s long-ago death and then recommending that Andrew get therapy.

Enough, already.

To connect with Andrew, Joyce unloads a bombshell of a secret: She had a boyfriend before she met her husband and loved him so much she named her only son after him. Considering it odd she never tried to look him up after his dad died, Andrew does research that reveals he’s an executive in San Francisco. With an ulterior motive in mind, he invites Mom to join him on a drive across the country, during which he’ll stop in Virginia, Texas, Santa Fe and Las Vegas to hawk a nontoxic cleansing liquid he has created to potential retailers.

Getting on the road held out the hope of changing scenery and a possible parade of lively supporting roles. Instead, we get shots of the two leads crammed into the tiny car.

The visit to San Francisco predictably plays on, and aims to stimulate bittersweet emotions. At the same time, the easy-to-get point of the enterprise is to stress that the mother and son’s prolonged time together has forced them to break through the barriers to arrive at a more honest, satisfying relationship. Yep, that’ll do the trick every time.