Babs makes it tolerable
There is really only one reason to see “The Guilt Trip” a gentle if unassuming road trip comedy and her name is Barbra Streisand. The film serves as a reminder of Streisand’s unique comic gifts, lifting the formulaic material about a doting mother and her son portrayed by Seth Rogan. It is rather old fashioned in tone, more likely to appeal to those who appreciate Streisand rather than Rogan’s fans who are expect much edgier content. But the two work well together and while the film rarely provokes laugh out loud moments, it is consistently amusing and earns its heartfelt final moments.
Rogan is Andrew Brewster, an organic chemist who’s developed an environmentally friendly (“you can drink it!”) cleaning product that he hopes to sell to a major outlet but his salesmanship is sorely lacking—same with his luck in the romance department. He learns that his mom Joyce (Streisand) who’s been a widow since Andrew was a child, named him after a first love boyfriend years before and said boyfriend is still alive and living in the bay area. Andrew asks his Mom to join him on a cross country sales trip secretly hoping he can get her and the former boyfriend reacquainted. That’s the set-up, but the point is to put the duo in a relentless set of situations allowing Joyce to needle, prod, nag, probe, and otherwise over-parent in ways overtly reminiscent to the New York Jewish mother stereotype. Streisand glides through the script like she didn’t need a script at all, effortlessly blending an unforced comic sensibility with her still endearing screen presence. (It’s a crime that she hasn’t had a starring role since 1996’s “The Mirror Has Two Faces”)
For his part, Rogan is fine as the somewhat annoyed yet still caring dullard who, predictably, will learn some life lessons at every stop while his Mom will learn she too has a few things to offer. It’s an innocuous film that is nonetheless refreshing in a sea of cynical, crude comedies that are more often the norm.
“The Guilt Trip” then, is a rare film about a son and his mother, that could actually be enjoyed together by a son and his mother. And Babs makes it tolerable.
Rated PG-13 for language and some risqué material.