Without a Paddle Movie Review

Without a Paddle: The year's most ingenious title. It speaks volumes about the creek we're headed up before the film even starts. Paddle finds its roots in Deliverance, though this updated version clearly has no intention to follow the gravity of its master. To compare the two would be shameful.

Three childhood buddies, now in their early thirties, have reunited to mourn the death of a close childhood friend. Since their last encounter ten years prior, each man has taken his life in a different direction. Dan (Seth Green) is a doctor with a laundry-list of phobias, Jerry (Matthew Lillard) is an executive with a fear of commitment, and Tom (Dax Shepard) is a lying barfly who refuses to grow up and act his age.

As kids, the quartet spent years planning a camping trip which never materialized, in order to find legendary criminal D.B. Cooper's lost treasure. After the funeral, the three remaining men find a detailed map to D.B.'s loot left behind in their childhood tree house. Forget mourning! They rationalize that the best way for them to pay their respects would be to take a canoe trip through the Cascades looking for the treasure.

In typical fashion, nothing comes easy for this ill-fated trio. On their first night, a hungry bear invades their camp and takes Dan back to her den after mistaking him for her cub. The following night, they stumble upon a pot farm and become the hunted for two insane hillbilly mountain men (Abraham Benrubi and Ethan Suplee). Later, the trio finds temporary refuge with two hippie women living in a tree they've named Earth Child. They must adopt forest names like Condor and Slug and defecate in biodegradable bags. It's stupid, but mildly amusing.

To survive in this plot-less genre, a movie like Paddle must be teeming with over-the-top antics to keep its audience in stitches (see buddy picture, Road Trip). All of Paddle's funniest scenes can be found in its trailer, leaving the finished film high and dry with extended stretches that bring very few sustainable laughs. Maybe it's due to a lack of chemistry between the stars, or because the film is unfortunately rated PG-13. Paddle only talks about the raunchiest material; it never acts on it. I guess the best stuff will be reserved for an overpriced, unrated DVD director's cut.

Burt Reynolds makes an obligatory appearance as a mountain hermit who helps the trio find the treasure. His ten minutes contain some of the film's best material. As for our leads, they fail miserably to create a believable camaraderie - not even the scene where they huddle together in their boxers can bring them closer. And as the fearful doctor, Green is a complete miscast; he barely looks old enough to drink, let alone practice medicine.

Not even a paddle can save this ship from sinking.

The DVD includes 20 minutes of deleted footage and commentary from director Steven Brill and the cast, in addition to a smattering of other extras.

And which creek might this be?


Without a Paddle Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, 2004


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