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'The Guilt Trip' review: Rogen, Streisand drive each other crazy

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Director: Anne Fletcher; Screenwriter: Dan Fogelman; Starring: Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen, Kathy Najimy, Miriam Margolyes; Running time: 95 mins; Certificate: 12A


Seth Rogen delivers fewer knob gags than usual in this comedy, largely because Barbra Streisand is his co-star and regularly gives him a look that warns him not to talk back. Even so, the banter between them flows pretty well as they drive across America in a claustrophobic hatchback, and that's a fortuitous thing, because without it, this trip would be going nowhere fast.

As usual Rogen plays the likeable schlub, Andy, an eco-minded scientist who's desperate to flog his new miracle cleaner, made from all natural ingredients. He has little else going on in his life, which concerns his fussy mum Joyce (Streisand), though since Andy's father died, her own social life largely consists of trips to the Gap. On a rare visit home, Andy decides to turn the tables on her.

He tracks down 'the one that got away' after Joyce tells him the (slightly creepy) story of her wildest love affair and then invites her along on a road trip - ostensibly to keep him company while he meets with potential clients. Naturally, Joyce is thrilled that her son wants to spend time with her, not least because she's always suspected that he moved to the other side of the country to avoid this.

The Guilt Trip, Seth Rogen, Barbra Streisand
By the time Andy and Joyce have their seatbelts on, their rapport has already been established in funny, loosely scripted scenes where - even as he shakes his head in disbelief - Rogen appears to be having a good time. Streisand is having a field day and she's more than a match for him, finally raising the taboo subject of his penile health during an unplanned stop-off at a strip-club.

Rogen spends a lot of time cringing and his discomfort is certainly fun to watch, as is Streisand's beaming nonchalance.

Director Anne Fletcher (27 Dresses) lets them get on with it for the most part, but there are other aspects of the plot (penned by Crazy Stupid Love writer Dan Fogelman) that feel awkward for the wrong reasons; namely, their interference in each other's personal lives.

Andy's matchmaking scam feels bogus and so does Joyce's attempt to solve Andy's 'deep-seated issues' by forcing him to confront an ex. Still, hearing her side of the story does afford Joyce a rare glimpse of Andy's sensitive side, giving rise to the one genuine moment of mother-son bonding. Of course, the real point of the journey is to have them grate on each other's nerves for comic effect.

Apart from brief shots of the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas, Fletcher also neglects to take advantage of the moving backdrop (perhaps because the budget didn't allow). By the end, the distance they've travelled doesn't seem so epic, geographically or emotionally, but it's not a wasted trip. Think of it as a Sunday drive, easy and breezy, with good company to pass the time.

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