Niagara Gazette — Although violence aficionado Quentin Tarantino may disagree, the Christmas season is usually a time for light-hearted fare at movie theaters.
Two new comedies strain their collective talent while trying to make you laugh. “The Guilt Trip” features Barbra Streisand, who clearly doesn’t need the work. And “This Is 40” is yet another venture into the toilet bowl from writer-director Judd Apatow.
Ironically, it was 40 years ago that Streisand was lighting up the screen in such hilarious comedies as “The Owl And The Pussycat” and “What’s Up, Doc?” Living the high-life in Malibu, and publishing an extravagant book about it, has appealed to her much more than making films. After directing and starring in “The Mirror Has Two Faces” in 1996, she did return to movies for “Meet The Fockers” in 2004 and “Little Fockers” in 2010. Overall, Streisand has made only 20 films in an acting career spanning 44 years.
Her being back on screen in “The Guilt Trip,” may be a joyous occasion for her fans, but it might have been joyous for everyone if the vehicle she had chosen were better. In this lackluster movie, which is lazily directed by Anne Fletcher and unimpressively written by Dan Fogelman, Streisand plays Joyce Brewster, a meddlesome mother with a secret she needs to share and a laggard son who shows some promise. The son, Andrew, is weakly played by Seth Rogen, who tries to tone down his stoner comedy image and actually create a flesh-and-blood character. He fails in the face of the juggernaut that is Streisand.
The story is simple. Andrew has invented what he believes is the perfect, environmentally friendly cleaning product. He wants to sell it to stores across the United States. The widowed Joyce tags along for a cross-country ride that is supposed to end up in San Francisco, where Andrew hopes she will hopefully rediscover a fellow from her past, the secret of whose existence she finally shares with her son.