For this holiday season, there are three family-driven comedies, with only two of those aimed at every age possible. Though we haven’t seen Parental Guidance, we can say that if you’re stuck with relatives over the holidays that The Guilt Trip is relatively painless, with fun performances from Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand, and a brief running time of 95 minutes.

The Players:

  • Director: Anne Fletcher
  • Writers: Dan Fogelman
  • Starring: Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen
  • Music by: Christophe Beck
  • Cinematography by: Oliver Stapleton

The Plot:

Andrew Brewster (Rogen) is about to hit the road cross country to pitch his cleaning production Scieo-Clean when he stops in to visit his mother Joyce (Streisand). She is a cliched worrier, who calls him all the time, and spends her time shopping at the Gap and eating peanut M&M’s in bed. When she tells Andrew about the love of her life (that wasn’t his father), he plots to take her with him on the road trip when he finds the man is living in San Fransisco. A road trip ensues.

The Good:

  • The Cast: Steisand and Rogen bounce off each other well, and though you know exactly where the movie is going for the majority of the run time, you buy their relationship, and you want to see them go through the natural process of parent and child to that relationship when both parties are adults. The film wouldn’t work without the two, and it’s a good combination.
  • Briskly Paced: The film is 95 minutes long, which is a minor miracle in this age of comedies often running close or over two hours. It’s nice to see a film that doesn’t dawdle endlessly, and it gives the film enough of a kick to be palatable.

The Bad:

  • Craft: Of which there is little. The film is shot as perfunctorily as possible, and pretty much everything about the film feels routine. There are no moments of poetry, and the only surprise in the film comes from the reveal at the end, which works well enough in context, but the big set piece (Joyce eats a four pound steak) isn’t all that inventive or cinematic. It’s just a long sequence that feels like it should be the key set piece. It’s just there.
  • For Older Women: This films seems to have been made for fans of Babs who are now either retired or nearing retirement. It’s the cinematic equivalent of Jello, which is both it’s best and worst characteristic. It never goes for people getting hit in the nuts jokes, but it also never feels anything less than safe.
  • The Rogen and Streisand show: It’s funny how some of the actors in the film are billed in the opening crawl as you might think they’ll have more to do, or forget they’re in the movie. Colin Hanks is in the film for two scenes, and it feels like he was on set for about two days, and has nothing to do. It’s a road movie, so that no surprise, but it is surprising these supporting parts aren’t written with any punch.

Overall:

This film seems designed for older parents and for the children who watch it with them during holiday settings. On those terms the film works. It’s fine. But that’s about it.

Grade:

5.5/10

The Guilt Trip hits theaters December 19.

Stills:

Trailer: