The Guilt Trip

So let me get this straight– the latest entry into the field of goofy road-trip movies also marks the return of Barbra Streisand to leading lady status?

Sure enough.

It’s been 16 years since Babs last starred in a movie (not counting the two horribly forgettable Fockers sequels), which may make you wonder why she decided that co-starring with Seth Rogen in The Guilt Trip would be a good idea. But give her credit; it may not be A Star is Born or Funny Girl, but this thing actually works.

Streisand is Joyce Brewster, a widowed New Jersey woman who spends her days kvetching with the girls and her nights eating peanut M&Ms in her lonely bed. Her son Andy (Rogen) is a chemist who’s developed an eco-friendly cleaner that he’s currently hocking to stores across the country.

When he kicks off a cross-country road trip to peddle his wares, he invites his mother along for the ride. (There’s another subplot here that also factors in). What ensues is a mother-son version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, full of uncomfortable moments, life lessons, and frequent gentle comedy.

The Guilt Trip isn’t a rip-roaring laugh riot, but it does have plenty of light moments and it never stops entertaining. Rogen’s fan base will feel out of place (most of the comedy is restrained and above-board), but Streisand’s fans will have a field day. It’s more of a fun, breezy car ride than a pedal-to-the-metal, madcap bit of zaniness.

Director Anne Fletcher (The Proposal) keeps things moving along well, allowing time for the mother-son relationship to mature gracefully. We ride along with this odd couple from Jersey to Tennessee to Vegas, through stops at a strip bar, Costco headquarters, and a Texas steakhouse, where Joyce attempts to devour four pounds of beef in a single sitting.

The screenplay by Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love.) feels a little derived in parts and contrived in others, but the admirably restrained performances from Rogen (doing his best work since 50/50) and Streisand (wisely dialing back what could have been more buffoon than boffo) make this one road trip that won’t leave you asking “Are we there yet?”

3.5/5 stars