The Guilt Trip has a sweetly sentimental premise

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Starring Seth Rogen, Barbra Streisand, and Kathy Najimy. Rating unavailable.

The Guilt Trip is a road movie that’s pretty much content to spin its wheels. Director Anne Fletcher (The Proposal, 27 Dresses) asks us to chew on the cinematic equivalent of a doughnut that’s been sitting in the glove compartment for way too long. What do we get? A controlling mother and her nerdy son arguing in a car, no changing scenery, and not a single truly eccentric character along the way.

If there’s any good news here, it’s that Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand play the couple we’re stuck with. Rogen is Andrew Brewster, a shy scientist who’s trying to sell an organic cleaning fluid he invented. Streisand portrays his mother, a low-key—but persistent—kvetcher who confesses that her one true love wasn’t Andrew’s dead father.

At heart, Andrew is a devoted son. So when he secretly discovers that his mom’s first love is, apparently, living in San Francisco, he suggests the two of them take a cross-country road trip. Andrew sets up appointments with retail outlets he hopes will be interested in his cleaning product. His mom assumes that her son simply wants to get to know her a little better.

It’s a sweetly sentimental premise, just not very funny. In fact, the jokes here seem like they’ve been recycled from one of Streisand’s early movies, when gags about meddling Jewish mothers were a staple on the Ed Sullivan Show. Everything about Dan Fogelman’s script feels oddly dated, like the mid-1960s with cellphones.

Still, there are sporadic moments of pleasure and tenderness. Both Rogen and Streisand take a gently subdued approach to their roles. Rogen, a skilled and generous straight man, appears genuinely happy to set up his leading lady for the odd laugh. During those rare moments when things click, it’s easy to see just how much a mature Streisand continues to offer the big screen.

Watch the trailer for The Guilt Trip.
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