Take two of the most irritating actors working today and have them play two even more obnoxious characters. Then put them in a car for a cross-country road trip and it adds up to The Guilt Trip.
This mirthless new “comedy,” written by Dan Fogelman and directed by Anne Fletcher (27 Dresses), follows a tired, formulaic path to deliver a series of punch-less gags, all enclosed within nauseating sequences causing supreme discomfort.
The Guilt Trip is the type of movie in which when Joyce (Barbra Streisand) says, “It never snows in Tennessee,” you know that, in the next scene, she and her son Andy (Seth Rogen) will be driving through a snowstorm in Tennessee. It is the type of movie that has Joyce warning Andy never to pick up a hitchhiker, which means you know she will pick up a hitchhiker. It is the type of movie whose idea of humor is Joyce seeing a neon sign saying “topless” and thinking it says “tapas.”
As Andy, the limited Rogen plays dutiful son to Streisand’s overbearing, non-stop Joyce, a son-and-mother team driving from the East Coast to San Francisco, never mind why. She never stops talking, and much of it is in the form of correcting her son’s behavior while also dishing dirt about sensitive subjects, such as his sex life and his failed relationships. It’s a toss-up as to who’s more uncomfortable: Andy or the viewing audience.
Along the way, Andy stops to pitch various outlets in his attempt to sell a new organic cleaner he has invented, all opportunities for Joyce to embarrass her son further. Every predictable stop along the way is calculated to highlight Joyce shaming Andy, and she does it so often it’s understandable when he finally erupts, an emotional outburst paving the way for Mom’s self-serving speech on how much she has sacrificed.
Such humor-by-discomfort quickly wears thin, leaving viewers dangerously carsick.
The Guilt Trip
Rated PG-13, 95 minutes.