Barbra Streisand appears on the screen so infrequently these days that when she finally does turn up, it’s a cause for celebration. So it breaks my heart to report that her new film, “The Guilt Trip,” is anything but a cause for celebration. In fact, it’s quite tedious.
That’s because the people who made “The Guilt Trip” never got past its “knee-slapper” premise, which seems to be, “Hey, let’s trap Streisand and Seth Rogen in a car for 8 days and see what kind of fireworks transpire!” Except the fireworks in “The Guilt Trip” are of the bland variety, ranging from predictable gags in which Streisand makes uncomfortable references to Rogen’s penis to unfunny asides like when Streisand “adorably” confuses “topless” and “tapas” at a roadside strip club.
The movie kicks off when Rogen, playing the low-level inventor of an organic cleaning product, hits the road with his mother, Joyce (Streisand), hoping to sell the product to businesses across the country. But there wouldn’t be much of a movie without conflict, so we get lots of back and forth bickering between the two leads, an unlikely bar brawl that finds Rogen getting punched in the face and an even more unlikely stop-off at a Texas steakhouse where Streisand wholeheartedly attempts to eat a 4½-pound slab of beef in under an hour.
“The Guilt Trip” is formulaic from start to finish, but it could have been a lot worse if it weren’t for the welcomed contributions of the warm and funny Streisand. Even when the material is beneath her, she somehow makes it more tolerable with her sunny performance as Joyce, the stereotypical Jewish mother who never stops pinching her adult son’s cheek. It is a thrill to see Streisand having so much fun on the big screen once again, but in a film like “The Guilt Trip,” she may be the only one.
★½ out of ★★★★
Rated PG-13 for sex jokes, thong shots and fisticuffs. 95 minutes.
Director: Anne Fletcher. Starring: Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen.