I’m surprised Judd Apatow didn’t do it first, but we finally have a comedy starring Seth Rogen and a stereotypically overprotective Jewish mom: The Guilt Trip, featuring what feels like the inevitable pairing of Rogen and Barbra Streisand. She plays a neurotic, lonely mother who accompanies her son on a cross-country road trip for some bullshit reason. This kind of thing has been done a million times — someone will see the other naked; mom will accidentally get high and/or drunk; valuable life lessons will be learned.
It’s sad, because I actually like Babs, too. There was a time I didn’t, however — like everyone under 50, I was naturally a hater. It wasn’t until I worked at A&B Sound (which some of you might remember as a now-defunct electronics shop known for its enormous music section) that I learned better.
I was one of those jerks who worked in the music department and derided your taste in whatever it was you chose to buy that week. It was a sweet gig, except for the holidays — each Christmas, we were forced to play Christmas music, 99 per cent of which is awful and disposable. We music cretins struck a deal with the management, whereby we could listen to one non-holiday album for every Christmas CD we played. Seems fair now, though it didn’t at the time — in righteous indignation, we deliberately chose the worst, most annoying Christmas albums we could find, and boy oh boy, are there a lot to choose from. There was William Hung (the creature from another planet that “starred” on an early season of American Idol); Kenny G and similar ilk; Manhattan Steamroller or whatever the fuck they’re called; and my absolute favourite, Babs’s surreal Christmas album.
Truth be told, I can’t recall any of it past the first track — I’d keep her hysterical rendition of “Jingle Bells” on repeat until someone complained. I still lose my shit every time I hear it. How the customers loathed it. If that didn’t solidify my faith in all things Streisand, then watching her early flicks did (Funny Girl through Up the Sandbox). If you give those films a chance (which you won’t), you’ll see what attracted audiences to her way back when — a comedian who could do both drama and wacky while maintaining a real sense of wit and intelligence. Everything after the late ’70s/early ’80s is dubious, when she moved into wise elder mode — the psychiatrist of the profoundly disturbingly adult The Prince of Tides, and the celebrity of Meet the Fockers.
The Guilt Trip looks like the kind of awkward comedy that’s quickly forgotten — another dud for Rogen in particular, whose career has been on hold since the Green Hornet debacle. What happened? His last big role was as a cartoon alien in Paul. Get it together, man.
This is the pre-Christmas week, when all of the studios compete for your hard-earned holiday dollars. There’s a little something for everyone, the obvious winner being Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up sequel-of-sorts, This is 40. Focusing on the best two characters from Knocked Up (which hasn’t aged all that well) is an obvious, winning idea. I’m sure it’ll renew my faith in the Apatow factory after the excruciating Funny People. (Don’t even try to defend that overlong, meandering mess. It’s like Apatow’s version of The Dark Knight Rises — it ends like three fucking times, and is about as bloated and un-fun as any big mainstream flick has a right to be.)
Tom Cruise’s attempt at starting another action franchise, Jack Reacher (sounds like slang for a handjob) actually looks halfway decent — nowhere near the highs of last year’s fantastic Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, but a nifty police procedural nonetheless. And it has Werner Herzog in a supporting role, which is sure to add a welcome element of surrealistic charm.