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The Guilt Trip (2012)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/30/2013

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/29/2013

Some things are a given, some things are taken for granted, and some things we are simply expected to believe. All of my life, I have heard that Barbra Streisand is a superstar, but I've never been sure why. Those in my generation are certainly aware of her and may have seen some of her work, but most likely aren't enamored with her. Those younger than me probably have no idea who she is, outside of the references which they've heard on Glee or her appearance in the Meet the Parents sequels. Of course, many who are older than me seem to think that this woman is pure gold and can do no wrong. But, as most of her filmwork pre-dates 1980, it's easy to understand why a certain crowd would have trouble viewing her as a movie star. However, by pairing Streisand with Seth Rogen in The Guilt Trip, younger people will now have a chance to see Barbra shine on the big screen.

Chemist Andrew Brewster (Seth Rogen) is ready to begin marketing his invention, "Scieoclean", an all-natural cleaning product. He plans to drive cross-country presenting it to major retailers along the way. Following a poor meeting with K-Mart, Andrew flies to New Jersey, where he will begin his trip. His mother, Joyce (Barbra Streisand), meets him at the airport and Andrew spends a few days with her. He notices that despite the fact that she has friends, Joyce leads a somewhat lonely life. Joyce tells him of a boyfriend which she had before she met Andrew's father, and Andrew finds that the man is living in San Francisco. Under the guise of wanting company on the road, Andrew invites Joyce to join him on his trip, which he now plans to end in Frisco. Joyce agrees and thus begins an awkward adventure as mother and son re-connect and try not to kill one another.

Do you like surprises? If you don't, then The Guilt Trip is the movie for you. It's a minor one, but the problem with this film is that it's exactly what you think it will be. If you've seen the trailer, then you're probably able to figure out how most of the movie is going to play. I don't think that anyone expected Streisand to take any great risks with her first starring role in 17 years, and The Guilt Trip lives up to that expectation. The movie is decidedly middle-of-the-road (and that's not a road trip joke). Joyce is annoying, but never abrasive. Andrew is stressed, but never to the point of truly breaking. There are a few mildly risque jokes here, but it never gets blue. It's as if the producers were attempting to create a movie which would appeal to Streisand fans and older women, without offending anyone.

Now, that description may make The Guilt Trip sound like a total disaster, but it isn't. While it's careful to not step on anyone's toes, it does have its positive points. The movie is decidedly sweet without being overly saccharine, as it illustrates how people in families can have difficulty interacting, even if they truly love one another. The "road trip" angle helps to keep things fresh and while the movie clearly have over-arcing themes, they are allowed to play out in different locations. It's fun to watch the normally laid-back Rogen attempt to play someone who's tightly-wound. While I had expected more from the comedic angle of the film, there are some laugh-out loud moments here, mostly from Rogen's one-liners. He's not really playing his normal character, but that doesn't stop him from being a wise-ass. The movie's saving grace is a touching twist which occurs at the end. Director Anne Fletcher and Writer Dan Fogelman wisely let this one come out of the blue and the bittersweet surprise really helps the film to end on a high-note.

So, in the end, the question is, "At whom is The Guilt Trip aimed?" My assumption is that Streisand fans will get a kick out of seeing the normally glamorous star playing a frumpy mom. (Although the jokes about The Gap wear out really quickly.) Rogen's fans (if that's a thing) will most likely be disappointed by the way he reins in his normal brand of ADD humor. (And, as far as I could tell, his character never got high!) The movie has some mild profanity and sexual references, so it's OK for older members of the family. The Guilt Trip offers a few laughs, one incredibly touching moment, and a lot of scenes which feel overly familiar. Playing it safe may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but I don't think this was the comeback which Streisand wanted.

The Guilt Trip offers some incredibly brief cameos by actors you'll know on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which run at an average of 28 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source material. While the picture is sharp, it's a bit soft. (I accidentally put in the DVD to begin with, and when I changed to the Blu-ray, I saw an improvement in the image quality, but that softness stood out.) The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth is acceptable, but not as good as some other Blu-rays. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Stereo effects don't dominate the track, but there a few notable examples here. Surround sound effects come into play while Andrew and Joyce are on the road and during a crowded restaurant scene. I didn't note any significant subwoofer effects.

The Guilt Trip Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. Through interviews with the cast and crew, "Barbra & Seth" (8 minutes) looks at the two main leads and examines how they worked together. "Barbra's World" (8 minutes) is simply a series of comments from those involved in the film describing what it was like to work with Streisand. Screenwriter Dan Fogelman talks about his real-life relationship with his mom in "Guilt Trip: Real Mother of a Road Trip" (6 minutes). "In the Driver's Seat" (7 minutes) looks at Anne Fletcher's directorial style and her on-set behavior. "Not Really a Road Trip Movie" (5 minutes) shows us how the movie was shot in California, using special effects to simulate travel. There are two "Alternate Openings" (2 1/2 minutes), both of which focus on Andy's upbringing. The "Alternate Ending" (2 minutes) is actually an additional scene which doesn't change much, but does have some humorous moments. We get a 5-minute GAG REEL. The Disc contains twelve DELETED SCENES which run about 19 minutes. This is a mixture of truly new scenes, extended versions of scenes from the finished film, and some things which look like they should have been on the gag reel.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.