“The Guilt Trip” is the kind of film you’d want to take your aunt to in order to make up for not calling her often enough during the year. Or anyone who enjoys predictable and fluff entertainment, for that matter. “Breezy,” “cute,” and “nice” apply, with Barbara Streisand and Seth Rogen doing their damndest best to make these qualifiers stick.
The “Funny Girl” performer plays Joyce, a lonely widow who devotes most of her time to her only son Andy (Rogen). That includes leaving millions of voice-mail message on his phone and being as unintentionally overbearing as possible. Andy is a scientist with the EPA about to head out on a road trip from Newark to Nevada to sell a new safe cleaning product, which up to now he has had nearly no luck in selling. He sees that mom is lonely and takes it upon himself to bring her along hoping, unbeknownst to her, to hook her back up with an old boyfriend who’s now a Executive VP in San Francisco.
From there the two end up in a topless bar, cheap motel, the home of Andy’s high-school girlfriend, the Grand Canyon, and a Texas BBQ place where Joyce volunteers to take the challenge of eating four and a half pounds of steak in order to win money. There are a few laughs here and there and director Anne Fletcher and writer Dan Fogelman walk a tightrope between making Joyce funny (beaming to her friends about her son being able to afford a shirt from J-Crew) and making her an etch-a-sketch version of the Jewish Mother (like a scene where she wants to go in to see how he conducts his business meeting).
Streisand is a big help, not only in being a delightful comic presence but also in creating a woman who puts love, but not always a filter, into every choice she makes. And she’s well-matched with Rogen, playing the long-suffering son who deep down knows what she’s trying to do. This is a long way from the pot jokes and cursing of his other films and he holds his own well.
“The Guilt Trip” could have been more. Andy’s problems with women are discussed but not much comes from that and Joyce doesn’t so much learn to ease up as just find someone else to focus her energies on. In the end it is what it is: nice.