Ignore the excoriating reviews you’ve read so far about Without a Paddle, the new film from Steven Brill, notable for directing other groundbreaking comedies like Joe Dirt and D3: The Mighty Ducks. Movie critics can be cranky, elitist assholes, and they rarely have their finger on the pulse of mainstream America. Movie reviewers purport to be much smarter than their readers, and falsely presume to know what is and isn’t funny to the rest of you. If critics had their way, great movies like Alien vs. Predator or The Princess Diaries 2 would never be made.
Actually, if you’ve seen the trailers for Without a Paddle, you’ll likely be misled into believing that this movie is your standard, mainstream summer comedy. I can only assume the PR firms charged with promoting this movie were afraid that by accurately marketing it as a brilliant, dark, psychological study of homoerotic behavior among men approaching their 30s, that nary an Iowan would bother shelling out their $10. It’s such a fresh breath of air for Paramount Studios to bring serious issues like these to the forefront in mid-American places like Duluth and Sheboygan.
Who the hell am I kidding?
Without a Paddle is just as advertised: a purported comedy — a label this movie doesn’t even deserve. And the critics were right — this movie is celluloid sewage. It is a Tom Green movie without the charm of Tom Green. And it is relentless in its torment. Indeed, the best thing that can be said for Without a Paddle is that it’s escapism for masochists.
The premise (if you can even call it that) is this: Three childhood chums, commiserating over the death of a fourth, embark on a ridiculous jaunt to the Pacific Northwest to find D.B. Cooper’s long lost $200,000 treasure. Jerry (Matthew Lillard, star of every bad movie ever made) plays the overstressed corporate shirt, Tom (Dax Shepard of MTV’s Punk’d) is the irresponsible, pathological liar, and Dan (Seth Green) is the uptight, phobia-ridden doctor. Green — who is better than this movie suggests - does his best anal retentive Ben Stiller impression throughout, which only reiterates just how abysmal a film this is: Mr. Stiller, a bad movie proliferate, wouldn’t even stoop this low.
Along the way, they have an unfortunate encounter with an angry bear, stumble upon two nature loving Heather Grahams living in a tree, and run afoul of two Deliverance-like gun-toting hillbilly marijuana growers [Ethan Suplee and Abraham “Kubiac” Benrubi (Parker Lewis would be so ashamed(!)].
The jokes are bad - at one point, Shepard asks Lillard, “Who are you going to call? Ghostbusters?” — and the sight gags are obvious (the unfunny moments in the trailer are the highlights), but thank god! Burt Reynolds comes along to save this picture, just like he saved Demi Moore’s Striptease and Rodney Dangerfield’s Meet Wally Sparks. I don’t know why it is that we drag Burt Reynolds out of hiding every five years to celebrate this man’s “illustrious” acting career — it doesn’t seem to me that The Cannonball Run and Smokey & the Bandit series have aged particularly well; Stroker Ace is just as bad now as it was in 1983, right?
Without a Paddle, at the very least, proves one thing: You should listen to your movie critics. They may be elitist assholes. And they may purport to be smarter than you. But, they have one advantage you don’t: They’ve already seen the movie. And if you don’t have the sense to heed their advice this time, you probably deserve to sit through this inanity.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.
Without a Paddle / Dustin Rowles
Film | May 12, 2006 | Comments ()