4 items from 2004
Making like a slacker City Slickers, Steven Brill's Without a Paddle chronicles the backwoods misadventures of a trio of childhood buddies who make good on a 20-year-old pact and set out to find bank robber DB Cooper's missing $200,000 stash.
But while the likable Seth Green, Matthew Lillard and Dax Shepard are definitely up to the comic excursion, the picture charts an uncertain course between wild and mild, eventually running aground in a pile of male-bonding muck.
Those looking for late-summer lark may be up for the trip, but the soft-around-the-edges tone won't exactly go over big with its target young, testosterone-driven demo.
The trek begins promisingly enough with the neurotic Dr. Dan Mott (Green), burned-out businessman Jerry Conlaine (Lillard) and aimless adventurer Tom Marshall (Shepard) honoring the memory of a childhood friend by going on a canoe trip in search of Cooper's rumored treasure.
Armed with a detailed map their pal left behind, a toy Indiana Jones compass and their not-so-collected wits, the guys take on roaring rapids, a maternal brown bear (played with the usual conviction by Bart the Bear -- actually Bart the Bear 2) and a pair of angry pot farmers (Ethan Suplee and Abraham Benrubi) whose crops were accidentally destroyed by the trio, before meeting up with an eccentric mountain man (Burt Reynolds) who happens to have been a good friend of Cooper's.
Too bad they couldn't have lent their Indy compass to director Brill (Mr. Deeds, Little Nicky) and his group of five credited writers, because Without a Paddle is never able to find any real sense of direction.
Weighed down by a patched-together script, a sluggish pace and a wavering tone caught between a rock and a squishy place, the picture keeps stumbling along toward a particularly wobbly ending.
With New Zealand providing the Oregon backdrop, The Great Outdoors beckon mightily, especially during those white-water sequences, which are effectively photographed by cinematographer Jonathan Brown (whose father, Garrett, invented the Steadicam mount).
And music supervisor Julianne Jordan supplies a worthy mix tape for the journey, which manages to unite Culture Club, Joey Ramone, the Faces and .38 Special, not to mention R. Kelly, whose Bump 'N Grind intro sets up one of the picture's funnier sequences.
Without a Paddle
Paramount Pictures presents a De Line Pictures production
A Steven Brill film
Director: Steven Brill
Screenwriters: Jay Leggett, Mitch Rouse
Story: Fred Wolf, Harris Goldberg, Tom Nursall
Producer: Donald De Line
Director of photography: Jonathan Brown
Production designer: Perry Andelin Blake
Editors: Debra Neil-Fisher, Peck Prior
Costume designer: Ngila Dickson
Music: Christophe Beck
Music supervisor: Julianne Jordan
Dr. Dan Mott: Seth Green
Jerry Conlaine: Matthew Lillard
Tom Marshall: Dax Shepard
Elwood: Ethan Suplee
Dennis: Abraham Benrubi
Flower: Rachel Blanchard
Del Knox: Burt Reynolds
MPAA rating: PG-13
Running time -- 93 minutes »
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4 items from 2004
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