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story.lead_photo.caption Andy (Seth Rogen) lacks the people skills to sell his environmentally sensible cleaning product in Anne Fletcher’s The Guilt Trip.

— The Guilt Trip doesn’t take viewers anywhere they haven’t been before, but any journey where the wisecracking cynic Seth Rogen is nagged by Barbra Streisand isn’t a complete waste.

Having Streisand embodying the sort of intrusive behavior all well-meaning parents engage in might not have strained screenwriter Dan Fogelman’s imagination but he and the legendary diva manage to create a fictional mom who seems familiar because, she’s kind of real.

Rogen plays Andy Brewster, a frustrated Environmental Protection Agency scientist who has used all of his resources to create a new home cleaning solution that’s as green as it is effective. Sadly, because he has such a specialized set of skills, he’s the worst person to sell it to corporate distributors. He speaks in jargon only fellow chemists understand, and his attempts at humor are so embarrassing that he might actually alienate his biggest fan, his mom, Joyce (Streisand).

In a desperate ploy to find a distributor for his worthy but under-appreciated merchandise, Andy embarks on a cross-country tour trying to convince retailers like Costco and Kmart to stock it. He also discovers that his mom has been nursing a longtime crush on the fellow she dated before she met her son’s father. In fact, Andy is named for the old boyfriend, who is apparently now living in San Francisco.

Figuring he can sell his cleaner and satisfy decades of his mother’s longing, Andy invites Joyce along for the ride. By accepting, she winds up adding to his stress level, even when she has good advice Andy should heed.

Fogelman is credited with the clever, imaginative scripts for Tangled and Crazy, Stupid, Love. This time around he appears to have run out of the enjoyable surprises he had for viewers in the previous films or has decided that recycling road movie cliches is sufficiently entertaining if the leads are appropriately cast.

He’s half right.

Technically, Streisand is old enough to be Rogen’s grandmother, but because she’s taken excellent care of herself, she can easily pass for a woman 20 to 30 years her junior. She also manages the tricky art of annoying Rogen’s Andy without alienating the audience.

Director Anne Fletcher (The Proposal) manages a formidable bit of sleight of hand by for the most part successfully faking a trip from New Jersey to California. (Apparently, Streisand is leery of traveling too far from her Malibu, Calif., home.) That said, the film often looks cheap and seems a bit wanting whenever the stars take a break from bickering. While the dysfunction seems entertaining and realistic, the rest of the journey seems left over from sitcoms.

If the rest of The Guilt Trip had been as fun as its stars, the journey wouldn’t have seemed so spotty.

The Guilt Trip 83 Cast: Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen, Adam Scott, Colin Hanks, Yvonne Strahovski, Ari Graynor, Nora Dunn Director: Anne Fletcher Rating: PG-13, for language and some risque material Running time: 95 minutes

MovieStyle, Pages 34 on 12/21/2012

Print Headline: The Guilt Trip

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