Casting Seth Rogen as a neurotic inventor and Barbra Streisand as his nagging mother and sticking them in a tiny car for a road trip through the South sounds like a formula for fish-out-of-water comedy. Don’t be fooled, though: The Guilt Trip is as much a fantasy for mothers as The Hobbit is for their sons. Streisand’s character is a wish-fulfillment vehicle for moms who want to see their smothering pay off in their grown sons’ successes, or to have a suave cowboy fall rapturously in love with them as they devour a 4-pound steak, or — well, to be Barbra Streisand.
The bickering duo pulls off the road at a strip club, the Grand Canyon and the Vegas strip, but screenwriter Dan Fogelman is so intent on making the story family-friendly (so you can suffer comfortably next to your grandmother) that the setting hardly matters. Nothing in the outside world matters in the vacuum created by this all-consuming mother’s love — Rogen may as well be driving his rental car across the moon. That is, if there were room on its craters for near-constant product placement: Rogen’s cross-country trek is undertaken to pitch his cleaning product to companies like Kmart and QVC, while scanning every billboard along the way. It’s like watching an adaptation of the Sunday coupon supplements.