Forty years ago, Barbra Streisand lit up movies like “The Owl and the Pussycat” and “What’s Up Doc?” with a super-charged energy. It was fun to watch her work.
Then the serious Streisand took over and by the mid-1990s she was done with movies. The legendary singer showed glimpses of that energy in the “Fockers” movies, but her latest work for “The Guilt Trip” is what finally gave Streisand the proper vehicle to again showcase her star power.
Streisand plays Joyce Brewster, a kvetching mother whose son, Andrew (Seth Rogen), has invented an environmentally safe cleaning product. Andrew plots out a cross-country trip to pitch his product to big corporations. He invites his mom on the trek after she tells him some shocking news. (No, it has nothing to do with her health. But it’s a big revelation for her son.)
Although there are pit stops along the way, “The Guilt Trip” is basically a two-person play with Streisand as the star and Rogen as a supporting player. The majority of their fun interaction takes place within the tiny confines of their car, which could have been a roadblock since it severely limits physical humor. Even in the confined space, the pair manage to make their comedy points.
The script by Dan Fogelman gives Streisand all of the best lines and even some broad comedy to play. Streisand seems to have found an acting Fountain of Youth as she embraces every moment with great energy and pizzazz. The script is not that smart, but there is just something weirdly funny about some scenes, such as Streisand trying to eat a four-pound steak just to win a T-shirt.
The rapid-fire nature of Streisand’s character could have gotten wearisome. Director Anne Fletcher (“The Proposal”) creates emotional rest stops along the way where the production becomes less manic. The breaks are short, allowing the action to return to the frantic pace set by Streisand’s character.
Rogen seems content to play the good son. He does finally have an emotional moment of clarity, but he quickly shifts back to being the straight man for the majority of the comic moments. It was probably an easy decision, considering his co-star is such an entertainment icon.
And Streisand doesn’t let him – or the audience – down. Her comic energy is as crisp and feisty as it was so many years ago. It’s what drives this movie to be so much fun that most anyone will appreciate it.