Road Trip

Co-written and directed by Todd Phillips

May 17, 2000 at 4:00 am
Road Trip makes American Pie look like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Fast Times like Animal House and Animal House like Citizen Kane. It ranks (indeed, it is rank) among the most soul-deadening movies ever made; it has no pulse and seeks to steal yours with a cynical vengeance. Oh, perhaps virgins and the brain-dead will find it amusing: Twelve-year-olds at a recent screening seemed to find it entertaining enough, no doubt because the film afforded them their first glimpses of wet and willing nude women, of which there are enough to fill a dozen issues of Playboy or Maxim. But anyone past puberty will merely sit in the theater wondering how to reclaim the 100 minutes they will never be able to retrieve. Perhaps they will consider class-action litigation; surely, we can sue someone over this obnoxious, laughless travesty. Or at least someone could file a restraining order: Director Todd Phillips shouldn't be allowed within 500 yards of a camera ever again. The penalty for disobeying such an order: He has to sit through this crap every day for the rest of his life.

No doubt, DreamWorks considers Road Trip -- which is ostensibly about a college student (Clueless' Breckin Meyer) and his three pals, who hightail it from Ithaca, N.Y., to Austin, Texas, to retrieve a damning sex tape before the girlfriend sees it -- its entry into the annual Tasteless Summer Teen Comedy Sweepstakes, hoping it vacuums up the loose change American Pie didn't suck up last year. It stars Pie's Seann William Scott, reprising the same role -- the guy who grins like an idiot because he is one. Even the poster looks identical, perhaps because DreamWorks knows it can con the underage audience into thinking it is the same movie. And it pretty much is, with one major difference: American Pie was funny; Road Trip is not. Ever. Well ... there is that one scene when MTV anything-for-a-laugh hooligan Tom Green puts a live mouse in his mouth.

Actually, the Tom Green scenes belong in a completely different film -- though not necessarily a better one. Green's scenes play as though they were shot during postproduction and spliced in 12 minutes before the projectionist loaded the canister. It's as though DreamWorks execs saw the film, realized that smell wasn't coming from the bottom of their shoes and tried desperately to figure out a way they could salvage the wreckage. Perhaps Jeffrey Katzenberg has a 14-year-old nephew who recommended Tom Green, 'cuz, dude, he's da bomb. D'ja see it that time when, like, he stole his dad's car and spray-painted two lesbians on it? Man, that shit was dope.

Green appears only a handful of times with the rest of the cast, playing a guy who's been in college seven years (it looks more like 17) and has never stepped foot outside Ithaca (Lord, and his character's name is Barry Manilow). The rest of the time, he's merely doing Tom Green -- the guy who exists only between quotation marks, who gets a laugh by doing stupid louder and longer than anyone can endure. His shtick, sometimes amusing and even stupid-brilliant on rare occasion, belongs on the small screen, where it serves as a respite between Backstreet Boys videos and Carson Daly's inane blather. On the big screen, where it's scripted and rehearsed (exactly the opposite of Green's act), it wears unbearably thin long before he literally shows his ass; some things are best left unseen, and some people are best left unheard in Surround Sound. (And how tolerable can any film be that stars Green and Andy Dick? Like, aren't they the same guy?)

Road Trip -- which really isn't, because the four boys barely do anything between Ithaca and Austin except stop in at a dinner, visit some grandparents, hang out at a black fraternity house and donate sperm -- is nothing but a ninth-rate compendium of Playboy party jokes. Say, did you hear the one about the scrawny white virgin who lost his cherry to the fat black chick? Or the one about the scrawny white virgin who ate French toast that had been stuck up the fry-cook's ass? Or the one about the dude who went in to donate sperm and had the nurse "milk his prostate"? Pity the poor fool waiting for a punchline; there is none. There's only one more anal-rape joke or old-man hard-on or female nipple around the corner, waiting to steal your wallet and your spirit.

At some point during a "movie" such as this, the brain stops to function; it erases any questions of logic (say, why do they keep referring to the University of Texas as "the University of Austin"?) or coherence (why does a film about a road trip have two subplots?). You stop wondering how such earnestly talentless dolts get movie deals with Steven Spielberg's studio; you stop asking why someone like Fred Ward (star of The Right Stuff, Henry & June and The Player) would stoop so low as to pick up a paycheck off the floor. You stop asking why Amy Smart would deign to bear her breasts because you've read the story of how Todd Phillips convinced her that going topless in Fast Times is what made Phoebe Cates a star. You can actually hear your heart stop halfway through Road Trip. The silence is deafening.

Opens May 19.