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Susan Granger's review of 'The Guilt Trip'

Published 11:00 am, Thursday, December 20, 2012
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While Barbra Streisand played supporting parts in "Meet the Fockers" (2004) and "Little Fockers" (2010), this is her first starring role since "The Mirror Has Two Faces" (1996).

Seventy-year-old Streisand plays Joyce Brewster, the widowed mother of organic chemist/inventor, Andy Brewster (Seth Rogen), who has a new product that he's trying to pitch to manufacturers/distributors across the United States. Sensitive to his mother's loneliness, Andy invites her to join him on his upcoming road trip, while he secretly schemes to reunite her with a lost love, a man she adored before she met and married Andy's father.

Leaving from New Jersey and heading toward San Francisco, they make several stops along the way, as Joyce not only delivers a running commentary about Andy's love life but also offers suggestions about how he should pitch the totally organic cleaning liquid it took him five years to develop.

Originally titled "My Mother's Curse," the episodic screenplay was written by Dan Fogelman ("Tangled," "Crazy, Stupid Love"), who actually went on a road trip with his mother. During a stopover in Texas, the scene in which Joyce voraciously devours a huge steak, on-stage, during a 60-minute countdown, is taken from Fogelman's real-life experience.

"That scene was difficult and very uncomfortable," Streisand admits. "I had to eat a lot of meat. We came up with some substitutes but, when the camera is at all close, you have to really eat steak." What you don't see is the bucket hidden beneath her that she could spit mouthfuls into.

Blandly directed by Anne Fletcher ("27 Dresses," "The Proposal"), this comedy should be more amusing than it is. Unfortunately, Streisand never sings and usually rowdy Rogen seems intimidated by her. And why not?

An admitted perfectionist, Streisand is notoriously demanding, including insisting that the entire road trip be shot within 45 minutes of her Malibu home.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to10, "The Guilt Trip" is a mildly funny 5 -- with the biggest laughs coming from the improvisational banter in the "outtakes" during the final credits.