City slackers head up river in Without a Paddle
Every summer needs a dumb comedy that turns out being funnier than it has a right to be (think 2001,s Rat Race). These movies pop up occasionally and seem destined for failure since they lack the basic pedigree of a successful film.
Without a Paddle is a perfect example. Director Steven Brill was given the project based on what? His superb work in two of Adam Sandlers least funny and least successful comedies Little Nicky and Mr. Deeds?
Surely the work of the leads Matthew Lillard ( Scooby-Doo films), Seth Green (supporting role as Dr. Evils son in the Austin Powers films which got worse with each successive installment) and Dax Shephard (essentially a rookie) offered little promise ? on paper, that is.
Throw in a plot that pilfers liberally from Deliverance, City Slickers and Road Trip and it would seem that audiences would be left up the proverbial theater creek without a you-know-what.
Not to mention the fact that there will be little groundbreaking content considering the frequency of sexual innuendoes, pot smoking references, stereotypical Southern rednecks, and a cameo by washed up veteran Burt Reynolds. Without a Paddle has got to have a the makings of a dud, right?
Well, hold your whitewater. If you are willing to check your good sense (and a bit of your decency) at the door you might find Without a Paddle to be a rare bright spot in a summer that needs some dumbed down post-adolescent humor.
Friends since childhood, neurotic doctor Dan (Green), resistant to responsibility surfer Jerry (Lillard) and neer do well goofball Tom (Shepard) embark on a treasure hunt in the Oregon woods in honor of a late buddys passing.
As they set out, with the aid of their dead buds map, to track down missing skyjacker D.B. Coopers fortune, their journey is filled with predictable misfortune as they run into an overly friendly bear, angry camouflaged pot farmers, treehouse living hippie chicks and a hairy mountain man (a mysteriously effective Burt Reynolds).
There are peaks and valleys to be sure but the shenanigans of the three buddies are kept moving forward by the improvisational vibe of their camaraderie and some smart aleck dialogue that pierces more often on the side of good-natured sarcasm than mean-spirited banality. In other words, these nutty guys are likable.
Well-paced while only occasionally belaboring its gags, Without a Paddle has a message about making the most of life and counting on friends but thats not really the point here. As it turns out, well-crafted mindless comedies must be harder to make than we give them credit for.
Rated PG-13 for drug content, sexual material, language, crude humor and some violence.