Road Trip (2000)

6 Feb

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

In 1978’s “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” Tim Matheson uttered the words “road trip” and that led to a very funny sequence while the Deltas are on a road trip. “Road Trip” seems like an extended play on that sequence—it makes sense, considering that the executive producer is Ivan Reitman, who produced the former. The result for “Road Trip” is somewhat uneven but mostly very funny and, in its own way, kind of sweet.

The main character is Josh (Breckin Meyer), a student of the University of Ithaca. He has a long-distance relationship with Tiffany (Rachel Blanchard), who goes to the University of Austin. They call each other every day and Josh sends videotapes of himself to her. But lately, Tiffany doesn’t call Josh back. This upsets Josh, who thinks that Tiffany may be cheating on him. It also drives him to give in to the seductiveness of the attractive Beth (Amy Smart), who has a crush on Josh and is being stalked by the nerdy teaching assistant Jacob (Anthony Rapp). They have sex after Josh bids on her at a girl auction held at a party, while being videotaped by Josh’s camcorder. But the next day, Tiffany finally returns Josh’s calls and says that she went through a mourning period due to her grandfather’s death. But wait. It gets worse—the sex video is accidentally mailed to Tiffany (one of Josh’s roommates mixed it with Josh’s “I miss you” tape, which he meant to send). Josh has three days to get from Ithaca to Austin before Tiffany comes back to school and sees the tape. Josh is joined by three friends (Seann William Scott, D.J. Qualls, Paulo Costanzo) on…what else, a road trip.

Of course, it’s not whether or not characters in road-trip movies make it to their destination that’s important. It’s what happens on the way. A lot happens on this road trip—their car explodes after jumping a huge ditch, they steal a bus, they spend the night in an African-American fraternity house, and more that I can’t give away. Some of the jokes are hit and miss, but there are more laughs. There is also a great deal of raunchiness—a diner cook makes French toast in such a nasty way that you might not want to try it again, there is a lot of nudity, sexual references, and sperm donations (in the most unusual way). You could call this the first follow-up to “American Pie,” which redefined the genre of teen sex comedies. (Oddly enough, Seann William Scott, who played Stifler in “American Pie,” plays a big-mouth best friend here.) Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the subplot involving MTV’s Tom Green as a seven-year student at Ithaca who tries to feed a mouse to a snake and terrorizing it until the moment of “fury.” That’s funny, too. And also a subplot involving D.J. Qualls’ hard-as-nails father (played by Fred Ward) who believes his son is kidnapped and waves a gun at anyone who doesn’t answer questions. A lot happens in “Road Trip” and even if all of it doesn’t mesh well, you still have a good time.

The real show-stoppers of “Road Trip” are D.J. Qualls and (sue me) Tom Green. D.J. Qualls is brilliant as the nerdy, cowardly college student who is afraid of his father and has a redeeming point on this road trip. Observe his performance and notice how flawless he is at playing this character. And as for Tom Green as the film’s narrator—this is probably the only time I’ve found him amusing. Then again, he tones down his persona here. All in all, I did like the characters and laugh a lot, so I recommend “Road Trip” while saying it could have been better.

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