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"ROAD TRIP"
(2000) (Breckin Meyer, Seann William Scott) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: Several college students set out on a cross-country trip to intercept a sexually explicit videotape before it falls into the hands of one of their girlfriends and proves her boyfriend cheated on her.
PLOT:
Josh (BRECKIN MEYER) and Tiffany (RACHEL BLANCHARD) have been friends since they were kids, and by the time they attended high school, that friendship turned into romance. Unfortunately, they decided to attend colleges nearly two thousand miles apart, but agreed that their relationship could survive such a distance and that they'd stay true to each other in an exclusive relationship.

E.L. (SEANN WILLIAM SCOTT), one of Josh's friends at New York's University of Ithaca, thinks that's a horrible idea and wants him to hook up with Beth (AMY SMART), a pretty coed who's more than attracted to Josh and needs a boyfriend to repel the advances of Jacob (ANTHONY RAPP), a creepy teacher's assistant.

Josh is reluctant, but when he can't get ahold of Tiffany and then hears from her roommate that she hasn't spent the past several nights in their room, he figures she must have dumped him. As such, he thus has a fling with Beth, a sexual encounter they record on video.

Although Josh feels like a new man the next morning, that only last a short while as he discovers, to his horror, that his brainy roommate, Rubin (PAULO COSTANZO), accidentally mailed that tape - instead of a sweet and syrupy one - to Tiffany. Things then get worse when he learns that Tiffany wasn't fooling around on him, but instead had left school for a few days due to the sudden death of her grandfather.

Realizing she won't return to school until Monday, Josh, E.L. and Rubin convince Kyle (D.J. QUALLS), a geeky and insecure student, to let them use his car to make a road trip to Austin to intercept the mailed tape before Tiffany returns and receives it. Leaving long-time student and campus tour guide Barry (TOM GREEN) to watch over Rubin's pet python, and taking Kyle with them, the students set off on their high speed quest.

With only a few days, a long way to travel, and Josh realizing he'll have little time to study for his crucial philosophy midterm given by Professor Anderson (WENDELL B. HARRIS JR.), the young men race across the country, not realizing that their high speed trek will lead to a series of near disastrous complications involving, among others, Kyle's father, Earl Edwards (FRED WARD), a testy motel clerk (ANDY DICK), a gross waiter (HORATIO SANZ), and even Barry's grandparents (ELLEN ALBERTINI DOW & EDMUND LYNDECK).

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
It's about that time of year known for being filled with long days and hot humid night, outdoor picnics and mosquitoes, and swimming pools and family vacations. Yes, it's nearly summer, and while the start of that season doesn't arrive until the middle of June, Hollywood has already officially launched its summer movie season.

Thanks to the blockbuster success of "Twister" several years ago and "The Mummy" just last year, the studios keep creeping that start date forward year after year to the point that "summer" now begins when some areas are still receiving snow, and kids - the main demographic Hollywood has in its sights - are still in school.

Nevertheless, accompanying the eventual arrival of insects and hot weather are the summer blockbuster wannabes, the films that jockey for positioning to lure the young masses into the multiplexes showing them. While the big action, sci-fi and star-studded comedies usually get the most fanfare and attention, the summer-based, teen sex comedies are probably Hollywood's favorite sort of film.

That's because they cost basically nothing to make (bare skin is cheaper than explosions, big stars and/or computer generated effects) and thus turn out to be huge profit machines for the studios. Thus, and certainly not surprisingly, and following the $100 million plus success of last year's "American Pie" comes this year's "Road Trip."

A moderately enjoyable, fairly amusing and occasionally hilarious entry in the genre, the film is raunchy and gross enough, and features an attractive, but relatively unknown cast to insure near guaranteed ticket purchases by teens and related profits for Dreamworks, SKG, the studio that produced it.

Mixing the traditional elements of the genre along with some of the gross out material popularized a few years back in "There's Something About Mary" and the ages old "road movie" plot that once featured the likes of Bob Hope & Bing Crosby and later Burt Reynolds (in his "Smokey and the Bandit" films), all years before the major cast members of this picture were born, the film has its moments. Even so, it probably won't be remembered as much more than a momentary diversion in the annals of the cinema, let alone the lives of those who see it.

As written and directed by Todd Phillips (who makes his feature film debut after helming several documentaries), along with co-screenwriter Scot Armstrong (who also makes his debut), the film really isn't much more than a loosely constructed assemblage of vignettes and skits following a serviceable, but not particularly spectacular or imaginative plot (a common fault of many road movies).

With MTV's Tom Green ("The Tom Green Show") serving as the film's part-time narrator (and supporting cast member) and relaying this "legendary" story to a campus tour group, the plot never strays too far from the formulaic and predictable trappings of the genre. As such, one can see and/or predict many of the big comic surprises, revelations and plot developments long before they occur.

Nonetheless, Phillips manages to keep some of them funny and instills most of the proceedings with enough youthful exuberance and irreverence that the film's less than imaginative structure (especially the lack of any significant or clever, comedic complications) and predictable nature don't completely undermine the filmmakers' and cast's efforts.

Of course, the brand of comedy delivered here certainly isn't for everyone's tastes, and what some may find hilarious, others will find mediocre and/or quite possibly offensive. If you don't mind such material or consider yourself a "connoisseur" of sorts of raunchy humor and crude teen sex comedies, however, then you may just enjoy the film, at least to some extent.

That said, some of the funniest moments involve events that don't really occur/aren't real - such as comical nightmares and part of Green's visualized narration that his tour group then doubts/questions - and it's too bad that the film doesn't include a greater amount of them to generate more laughs and keep the viewer off balance about what's real and what's not.

Considering the type of film this is and the genre in which it falls, the performances are generally okay and at least don't delve into the stupid stereotypes that often populate such films. Even so, one shouldn't expect much development or more than sketchy dramatic arcs for any character. Looking like he could be related in some way to Bill Maher (the host of TV's "Politically Incorrect"), Breckin Meyer - the film's most veteran young performer who's appeared in "Go" and "54" - delivers a decent, but not particularly memorable comedic performance as the lead character.

Relative newcomer Seann William Scott (he made his debut in last year's "American Pie") inhabits the mischievous "bad boy" character and runs with it, creating what's probably the film's most fun role simply for his level of carefree and irreverent enthusiasm. D.J. Qualls (who makes his debut here) comes in a close second, playing the standard geeky character who eventually breaks out of his shell to become something of a wild man. Although saddled with that stereotype, the scrawny Qualls makes the most of it and generates some of the film's biggest laughs.

Tom Green is good in his tour guide guise, but not as successful while playing a dimwitted student morbidly fascinated with feeding a pet python its live prey, while Fred Ward ("Tremors," "The Right Stuff") can't do much with his extremely limited character. The young women who appear in the film aren't that well-developed either (from a character and not physical standpoint), but at least Amy Smart ("Outside Providence," "Varsity Blues") and Rachel Blanchard ("Man of the Century," the TV movie "The Beach Boys: An American Family") manage to avoid the dumb blond, bimbo stereotypes that usually permeate films like this.

Overall, the film has its funny and occasionally uproarious moments, but beyond some other notable gross out material, the film never transcends mediocrity. Even so, it should play rather well to its target audience and ends up being entertaining enough - as long as you don't mind the material - to make it worth a partial recommendation, but only to those who enjoy these sorts of films. Otherwise, you'll probably want to avoid it. "Road Trip" rates as a 4.5 out of 10.




Reviewed May 15, 2000 / Posted May 19, 2000


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