The premise is somewhat promising the first time you hear it: a son and his nosey mum take an eight-day road trip across America together. But after watching it, you realise that a nagging mother on screen for 90 minutes isn’t a comedy, it’s a fucking horror. The son invites his mum under a false bonding pretence but secretly plans to set her up with her high school sweetheart so she can move on from her husband’s death. The fact that the son’s father is dead, and now he’s sharing motel rooms with his mother, is a little too close to the Oedipus complex for my liking, and when the mum starts playing erotic fiction audiobooks in the car, it just gets even hotter worse.
The film’s greatest asset is Seth Rogen, whose comedic talents are inhibited by his role as a frustrated and depressed loner pitching his self-made cleaning product to supermarket chains across America. Seriously, what kinda shitty casting is that? Take a look at some of Seth Rogen’s previous characters:
Pineapple Express – lazy bonghead
Zack and Miri Make A Porno – lazy bonghead
Knocked Up – lazy bonghead
Green Hornet – lazy bonghead
The Guilt Trip – motivated chemistry graduate
UMM OKAY. It’s like Schwarzenegger playing a university professor (“ask me how many references you need and I break your arrrmmmm”) or Rob Schneider playing someone mentally able. The bong-Rogen relationship is as powerful as the shirtless-McConaughey association or the sex offender facial hair-Toadie from Neighbours connection. It’s a strong bond, don’t ruin a classic. I totally understand actors wanting to expand into other genres, but this is meant to be a comedy, and somehow Seth Rogen is the set-up and Barbra Streisand the punchline. I still can’t get my head around it. There’s only one answer, and hear me out guys: Streisand is a metaphor for a bong. Check out some of her albums, and I’m not making this shit up: Lazy Afternoon (1975), Higher Ground (1997), and, seriously, Stoney End (1971). According to Wikipedia, “When asked by fans…what the title track Stoney End was about, she replied that she still didn’t know”. She didn’t know because she was too fucking cooked to remember even making the album. You see, Streisand is a bong :)! But wait, why is she not funny? Streisand isn’t a bong :(.
Rogen isn’t the only wasted potential in this. For example, the mother and son break down outside a strip club – this could be funny. The son feels awkward and soon after a stripper kicks some snow off the tyre and they leave – not funny. Why not take advantage of that scene? Draw it out, force them to stay overnight, have Toadie from Neighbours buy them a dance. Just something. That’s the inherent flaw of The Guilt Trip: the ideas behind the scenes are funny, but the execution is insipid and devoid of any form of tension. Its humour is drawn from the comedic awkwardness from driving cross-country with one’s mother, but because the comedy is so weak, we’re left with nothing but the awkwardness.