Without a Paddle


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"Imagine part Airplane and part Lost in Translation, with a splash of Black Beauty.   Now, imagine it was written by the author of Jane Eyre and stars Freddy Prinze, Jr.  You get the idea."










Without a Paddle
The Masked Reviewer

Without a Paddle takes its name from the old saying "Up a Creek without a Paddle", although they should have taken the name from the old saying "Making a Movie without a Good Screenplay". 

This film stars Matthew Lillard, Seth Green, and Dax Shepard.  You may remember them as (respectively) Shaggy from the Scooby Doo movies, Scott Evil from the Austin Powers movies, and that guy in the baseball cap from MTV's "Punk'd".  Speaking of "Punk'd", why the apostrophe?  Do they really save that much time by replacing one 'e' with an apostrophe?  It's just as many keystrokes.  Is that the hip way to write things now?  If that's the case, then the Masked Reviewer thinks Without a Paddle suck'd. 

It's kind of surprising.  All three of the leads are usually fun to watch in whatever horrible movie they may be in.  Matthew Lillard was even bearable in the videogame inspired Wing Commander.  Seth Green was watchable in Rat Race.  And Dax Shepard made more than 10 seconds of viewing "The Bonnie Hunt Show" almost  entirely vomit-free.  They all seem like pleasant guys. 

The trouble is, there isn't much material to work with.  It's hard to tell what they were going for in this film.  From the previews, you might think that it's a wacky goofball comedy, like Dude, Where's My Car?.  It's not wacky or goofy.  It has moments, but a comedy that tries to go between over-the-top silly and touching typically doesn't work.  Imagine part Airplane and part Lost in Translation, with a splash of Black Beauty.   Now, imagine it was written by the author of Jane Eyre and stars Freddy Prinze, Jr.  You get the idea.

There's an awful lot of screen time devoted to mushy sentimental stuff.  None of it plays well.  It comes off as preachy and trite, with a message of -- not to give anything away, of course -- "live life to the fullest".  Huh.  That's deep.  The Masked Reviewer immediately understood the message of the film and wanted the last two hours of his life back that he wasted watching this dung parfait.

It's not all that bad, really.  There are a couple of laughs.  It's not that the jokes fail miserably, it's just that there aren't many jokes.  As a result, it's more often boring than anything else.  And, the few jokes that did make it to the final cut aren't particularly strong.  They're just...familiar.  Not good familiar, just...uninspired.

It's hard to stay motivated to write much more about the film.  It's directed by Steven Brill, who also directed Little Nicky and Mr. Deeds. The humor is nothing like either of those movies; he also wrote Ready to Rumble and all of the Mighty Ducks movies.  Without a Paddle isn't as wacky as Little Nicky or Mr. Deeds and not as silly as Ready to Rumble.  It's probably about as funny (and emotionally fulfilling) as a Mighty Ducks movie, but that's just a guess...the Masked Reviewer hasn't seen any of them all the way through. 

What's clear is that the other comedies by this director all relied on the frenetic energy of the stars; Matthew Lillard, Dax Shepard, and Seth Green don't have that over-the-topedness for a slapstick flick.  They've all got a definite screen presence, but it's not enough to carry the movie.

There's a cameo -- or maybe it isn't a cameo -- that's not bad, but not great.  The Masked Reviewer won't risk ruining the surprise in case you do go to see this (against the Masked Reviewer's better judgment), so at least you'll have that to look forward to.  For a while.

All in all, it's not much of a comedy, and the life lessons and preachy emotional clap-trap is tiresome.  Huge fans of Matthew Lillard, Seth Green, or Dax Shepard will have a hard time not being disappointed if that's why they go to see this one.  The rest of you will not have a hard time being disappointed. 

If you saw the trailers or previews, you saw just about every single laugh in the movie, and that should tell you a lot.


Expectation from the Title: When the university adopts a new non-hazing policy, the frat brothers have to find a new way to initiate their members.

Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):  Matthew, Seth, and Dax would be welcome for dinner any time.

The Pros: The leads are charismatic and manage to squeeze out a few precious drops of laugh juice, but it's not enough to quench the relentless thirst of entertainment desire.

The Cons: Poor writing, not nearly enough funny, too preachy.  The big message of the movie isn't going to change anyone's life. 

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