Film Reviews

Mud pie

Road Trip makes American Pie look like Fast Times at Ridgemont High; Fast Times look like Animal House; and Animal House look like Citizen Kane. It ranks (indeed, it is rank) among the most soul-deadening movies ever made; it has no pulse and seeks to steal yours with a cynical vengeance.

Oh, perhaps virgins and the brain-dead will find it amusing. Twelve-year-olds at a recent screening seemed to find it entertaining enough, no doubt because the film afforded them their first glimpses of wet and willing nude women, of which there are enough to fill a dozen issues of Playboy or Maxim. But anyone past puberty will merely sit in the theater wondering how to redeem the 100 minutes they spent there. Perhaps they will consider class-action litigation; surely, we can sue someone over this obnoxious, laughless travesty. Or at least someone could file a restraining order. Director Todd Phillips shouldn't be allowed within 500 yards of a camera ever again. The penalty for disobeying such an order: He has to sit through this crap every day for the rest of his life.

No doubt, DreamWorks considers Road Trip--which is ostensibly about a college student (Clueless' Breckin Meyer) and his three pals who high-tail it from Ithaca, New York, to Austin, Texas, to retrieve a damning sex tape before his girlfriend sees it--its entry into the annual Tasteless Summer Teen Comedy Sweepstakes, hoping it vacuums up the loose change American Pie didn't suck up last year. It stars Pie's Seann William Scott, reprising the same role--the guy who grins like an idiot because he is one. Even the poster looks identical, perhaps because DreamWorks knows it can con the underage audience into thinking it is the same movie. And it pretty much is, with one major difference: American Pie was funny, Road Trip is not. Ever. Well...there is that one scene when MTV anything-for-a-laugh hooligan Tom Green puts a live mouse in his mouth.

Actually, the Tom Green scenes belong in a completely different film--and not necessarily a better one, though film on soup would be far preferable to Road Trip. Green's scenes play as though they were shot during post-production and spliced in 12 minutes before the projectionist loaded the canister. It's as though DreamWorks execs saw the film, realized that smell wasn't coming from the bottom of their shoes, and tried desperately to figure out a way they could salvage the wreckage. Perhaps Jeffrey Katzenberg has a 14-year-old nephew who recommended Tom Green, 'cuz, dude, he's da bomb. D'ja see it that time when, like, he stole his dad's car and spray-painted two lesbians on it? Man, that shit was dope.

Green appears only a handful of times with the rest of the cast, playing a guy who's been in college seven years (it looks more like 17) and has never set foot outside Ithaca (Lord, and his character's name is Barry Manilow). The rest of the time, he's merely doing Tom Green--the guy who exists only between quotation marks, who gets a laugh by doing stupid louder and longer than anyone can endure. His shtick, sometimes amusing and even stupid-brilliant on rare occasion, belongs on the small screen, where it serves as a respite between Backstreet Boys videos and Carson Daly's inane blather. On the big screen, where it's scripted and rehearsed (the exact opposite of Green's act), it wears unbearably thin long before he literally shows his ass; some things are best left unseen, and some people are best left unheard in Surround Sound. (And how tolerable can any film be that stars Green and Andy Dick? Like, aren't they the same guy?)

Road Trip--which really isn't, since the four boys barely do anything between Ithaca and Austin except stop in a diner, visit some grandparents, hang out at a black fraternity house, and donate sperm--is nothing but a ninth-rate compendium of Playboy party jokes. Say, did you hear the one about the scrawny white virgin who lost his cherry to the fat black chick? Or the one about the guy who ate French toast that had been stuck up the fry-cook's ass? Or the one about the dude who went in to donate sperm and had the nurse "milk his prostate?" Pity the poor fool waiting for a punch line; there is none. There's only one more anal-rape joke or old-man hard-on or female nipple around the corner, waiting to steal your wallet and your spirit.

At some point, the brain stops to function during "movies" such as this; it erases any questions of logic (say, why do they keep referring to the University of Texas as "the University of Austin?") or coherence (why does a film about a road trip have two subplots?). You stop wondering how such earnestly talentless dolts get movie deals with Steven Spielberg's studio; you stop asking why someone like Fred Ward (star of The Right Stuff, Henry & June, and The Player) would stoop so low as to pick up a paycheck off the floor. You stop asking why Amy Smart would deign to bare her breasts, because you've read the story of how Todd Phillips convinced her that going topless in Fast Time is what made Phoebe Cates a star. You can actually hear your heart stop halfway through Road Trip. The silence is deafening.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky