Road Trip (2000)

D: Todd Phillips
S: Breckin Meyer, Sean William Scott

Weak comedy assembled from miscellaneous scenes of sexual misadventure which transpire when a group of college friends go on the road in an attempt to retrieve a pornographic videotape which has been inadvertently sent to one of their girlfriends. As is the norm for these things, each has a meaningful encounter of one kind or another en route, testing the limits of their personalities insofar as they have any at all. There is plenty of 'outrageous' action and one or two mild smiles, but any resemblance it has to American Pie is purely a co-incidence resulting from its production relatively quickly once the box-office returns for the former started to come in. This film has no warmth: the characters are unremarkable and the 'drama' doesn't even make a pretence of being anything more than a jump-off point for generic adolescent shenanigans. At least American Pie found a way to use the clichés to make some cogent points about the troubles of its target demographic. This film simply exploits them. Humour is a difficult topic to write about, and what is funny to one person is not to the next, but Road Trip is banal in most respects by which any film may be judged (writing, direction, performances) and has been made with no ambition other than to accumulate cash from undemanding punters. It is a leech of a picture that really doesn't deserve the audience it is going to get by clinging to it predecessor's skin.

In an attempt to enliven the proceedings, director Todd Phillips and co-writer Scott Armstrong have thrown in some unrelated scenes featuring TV flavour of the month Tom Green. Green, who features prominently in the advertising, is a zoned-out classmate who doesn't actually go on the trip, but spends most of the time toying with some white mice which he is meant to feed to a pet snake one of our 'heroes' leaves behind. This is basically an excuse to paper over the cracks in the story by cutting away now and again to something audiences might find interesting (if they are fans). He also narrates the film, providing it with a prelude and coda in which he again features prominently. This does beg the question of just where you draw the line between a pitch and a movie. Green's peripheral role in the story does not warrant the amount of screen time he gets, but he is clearly there because it was sold on the strength of his name. John Belushi may have done a scene-stealing turn in National Lampoon's Animal House (itself a movie with a weak storyline held together by a string of naughty gags), but at least he was integrated into the film as well as any of the other characters were (and he was a lot funnier than Green). Green might as well being doing stand-up for all the relationship he has with what is supposed to be the core of the film.

The truth is, of course, that it has no core. The gags are an collection of bogstandard sex comedy situations jammed together around a slim storyline. It is designed for easy consumption and instant amnesia, a product of opportunistic timing and marketing which is more Porky's Revenge than Animal House. Those amused by what they see in the trailer will probably enjoy the movie all the same. It is what you expect it to be. There is nothing surprising about anything that happens here and thus it delivers what it promises. The problem is that the promise is not all that great in the first place, because it will only work if you have never seen anything like it before. For the majority of its target demographic this probably will not be an issue. To them the eighties are more myth than reality and films like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Animal House might as well be in black and white (hell, even Clueless is probably starting to look old to them). Most viewers over the age of twelve will find it tedious and predictable.

Review by Harvey O'Brien PhD. copyright 2001.

Note: The Region 2 DVD has some bonus features, none of which help the film to appear more interesting than it really is.