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"Without a Paddle"

Directed by Steven Brill ("Little Nicky", "Mr. Deeds").
Written by Jay Leggett and Mitch Rouse.
Starring Seth Green, Matthew Lillard, Dax Shepard and Burt Reynolds.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  8/19/04


I was sitting in the theater with my friends Raymond and Liz Weeden after "Without a Paddle" finished, and we all turned to look at each other.  Then, the guy sitting behind us just up and said it:

"Well, I'm glad I saw THAT for free!"

See, the sentiment there was perfect because that guy, like the three of us that came together, were laughing quite regularly throughout "Without a Paddle"...but, we were assuredly laughing louder because our ticket cost us zilch.  Seth Green, Matthew Lillard and Dax Shepard star as a group of lifelong friends that, upon the passing of their fourth tagalong, decide to take a trip to discover just what kind of treasure their friend had been stalking prior to his demise.  This takes them to the woodlands of the Upper Northwest, and the threesome--two city slickers and a fast talking former motorcycle dealer amongst them--take to the woods like a fresh fragrance to shit and face disaster after disaster as they try to find the buried treasure.

Along the way, the boys "find themselves", but not before they are hunted by a pot-farming duo (Ethan Suplee and Abraham Benrubi) as they trek across the landscape, finding love, bears and a crazy mountain man along the way.  Dan (Green) is a doctor, the ultra-conservative one that is also about a foot shorter than his friends; Jerry (Lillard) is a day laborer at a high-end financial firm and he's hit that 30-year-old mid-life crisis; Tom (Shepard) lives life in the moment, one day at a time.  It will take teamwork for the guys to get out of their situation, but luckily, they don't take anything very seriously.

It's the charm of the three main characters that carries "Without a Paddle" throughout; just when things are at their nadir, Tom will make a crack that sends the audience into an uproar.  The threesome really do convey their friendship incredibly well; their chemistry seems natural, and that only helps when you have to sit there suffering through the film's "dramatic" moments as one guy after another comes to realize who they really are, blah blah blah.  The film flies by in a heartbeat, and the best gags in "Without a Paddle" really are hilarious; the money shot of this film (also used in its trailer), involving the guys as they huddle in a storm in the near-nude, is even funnier in the movie; the use of the R. Kelly song "Bump and Grind" is pure genius, and our house was howling as the guys fall to the ground enjoying some mock man-love as they cuddle to stay warm.

"Without a Paddle", shot mostly in New Zealand, has some fantastic shots of the wooded wonderland and a decent river stunt sequence featuring the guys as they get tossed over a waterfall.  The soundtrack is solid and the film never gets too bogged down in the details.  The quality of the comedy after a while is where you lose, especially if you are over the age of 18; the childish, sophomoric script wears on you with potty jokes after a little while, since they aren't necessary in a film that seems to ride Shepard's comic abilities quite well at times.  ("I'm not an astronaut...I'm an American.")  The bad guy duo of Suplee and Benrubi does provide a couple of good laughs (how funny is that burning field of pot number?) but they become tiresome quickly.  The guys seem to take getting shot at even more lightly than they would in a flick like "The Naked Gun", given that this is supposed to be a harmless cleavers, grenades and heavy artillery really need to be thrown into the mix here?

Look, as we run through the slate of bad flicks over the next six weeks (September IS fast-approaching), you are gonna do a lot worse than "Without a Paddle", so if you are looking for a light comedy, this might fit the bill.  Just come in with low expectations and you will surely leave a happy camper.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09