The Guilt Trip is not a terrible movie. It’s just not a good one. In fact, it’s obstinately not good, the kind of movie that doesn’t aspire to be anything other than mildly watchable, if that. It is decidedly middle-of-the-road, a bland movie by design, as though it was specifically constructed by a corporate conglomerate to be the holiday movie that everyone reluctantly agrees upon because no one can agree on a first choice (Django Unchained), a second choice (Les Mis), a third choice (This is 40) or a fourth choice (Jack Reacher). The Guilt Trip is the movie that everyone’s family will idly tolerate, a movie to snooze through after a huge Christmas feast, an hour and a half to take a break from the family and vaguely seethe at the screen.
The only mystery here is why Seth Rogen would choose to make a film so painfully conservative, so uniformly blah. Is The Guilt Trip his gateway to the family film careers of Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, and occasionally Will Ferrel? Or is it just a paycheck between minor stoner comedy hits? Because it’s sure as sh*t not a movie the guy who co-wrote Superbad and Pineapple Express would like. It’s a movie the guy who co-wrote Superbad would cynically crap out, a get-rich scheme to appeal to as many people as possible without really appealing to anyone because he needs more money to buy pot.
The Guilt Trip is a limp and uninspired road-trip comedy, pairing a bickering chemistry geek (Rogen) with his bickering Jersey mom (Barbara Streisand). Directed by Anne Fletcher (The Proposal, Step Up, 27 Dresses, OH GOD WHY SETH ROGEN?), the chemist has created a new cleaning product made of all natural ingredients and he takes it across country to pitch it to various big-box outfits like Costco and K-Mart. Along for the trip is the mother, who spends most of the time kvetching and worrying about her son, and wiping schmutz off his face. Along the way, per road-trip movie tradition, their car breaks down in a winter storm at a strip club, where there’s Rogen makes some awkward faces to express discomfort. There’s also a good 20-minute sequence in the middle of The Guilt Trip where Streisand’s character engages in a binge-eating context at a Texas steak restaurant that acts as the turning point in the film, bringing a complaining widow and a exasperated son closer together in as trite and predictable way as possible. ‘MURICA.
There is nothing in The Guilt Trip that cannot be telegraphed the moment you see the movie poster. There is no beat, no situation, and no joke that you haven’t heard a thousand times in your life already. It is the Velveeta of holiday movies: Processed to be vaguely palatable and to fill you up, but there is nothing enjoyable or entertaining about experiencing it. It just exists and I wish it didn’t.