“Without a Paddle” is also without talent, originality, anything to laugh at, or a reason to buy a ticket.
The opening moments of faux home movies showing four boys up to all kinds of faux hi-jinks, and then we then meet up with only three of them as adults, so we know where this is going. Yep, one of them dies and the other three decide to salute his memory by taking the treasure map he left behind for them in the old treehouse so they can go off in search of treasure and find themselves, the meaning of life, and maybe some money, too.
And we will not be surprised that one of them will be successful but repressed and phobic (Seth Green as Dr. Dan Mott), one will be an irresponsible and substance-abusing but fun-loving guy who’s catnip to the ladies (Dax Shepard as Tom), and one will be unhappy in his boring job and unable to commit to his beautiful girlfriend because he just can’t grow up (Matthew Lillard as Jerry).
Ready with the life lessons? Ready with the poop humor? Ready with the rednecks armed with enough firepower to invade several countries, but who, even equipped with laser-sights to ensure accuracy and automatic firing to ensure, um, mayhem, can’t seem to hit anything they aim at? Ready with the bear? The rapids? The beautiful hippie chicks named Flower and Butterfly living in a tree and eating bark? The guys having to huddle together for warmth despite a lot of “I’d rather die” homophobia? Burt Reynolds as Grizzly Adams, playing a bearded old hermit still doing “Dy-no-MITE” jokes because he hasn’t seen television since “Good Times” in 1971? Then get in that canoe and start paddling.
Or not. This is just a massive waste of time for everyone involved. There is not one joke that hasn’t been seen before and done much better. Most of them are just silly or gross rather than funny anyway. The purportedly heartwarming moments are cheesy and insincere.
Director Steven Brill is responsible for directing atrocities Mr. Deeds and Little Nicky and writing the terrible Ready to Rumble. He deserves to be put in a canoe without a paddle for this one.
Parents should know that the movie has a lot of very strong material for a PG-13 including a lot of “action” violence (a lot of shooting with very powerful weapons but hardly any blood and no one seriously hurt), comic peril (including a bear attack and many dangerous encounters on the river), and some graphic images (sewing up a bloody wound, a skeleton, lots of poop). There are many sexual references and situations, including references to peeking at a girl’s “downstairs,” a pierced “downstairs,” and a lot of homophobic and misogynistic humor. A woman’s unshaven leg is as scary as Sasquatch. Characters use strong language. Characters smoke and drink beer, other characters are drug dealers, and getting stoned is played for humor.
Families who see this movie should talk about what Tom, Jerry, and Dan learned from the trip. How did each of them decide what was really important?
Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the better City Slickers. They might also like to take a look at the website maintained by Julia Butterfly Hill, who lived in an ancient redwood for two years to protest environmental abuses.