**1/2 (out of four)
The people behind “The Guilt Trip” should feel proud, not guilty, for the places the comedy doesn’t go.
During an eight-day, cross-country road trip, Andy (Seth Rogen) and his overbearing mom, Joyce, (Barbra Streisand) don’t, say, accidentally eat pot brownies and stay out all night. They don’t hit a deer. The script from “Crazy Stupid Love” writer Dan Fogelman affectionately incorporates some Jewish humor without turning Joyce into a caricature.
Of course, “The Guilt Trip” does include a detour involving a topless bar (which, in order to maintain the PG-13 rating, contains zero topless women) that Joyce at first thinks advertises “tapas.” In the car the pair listens to an audio book of Jeffrey Eugenides’ “Middlesex” and Joyce initiates numerous conversations about her past sex life. The big joke “The Guilt Trip” has up its sleeve is Andy’s awkwardness, and frequently the humor feels so sitcommy I expected to hear a laugh track.
But the movie’s heart is in the right place. Initially planning to hit the road from New Jersey to Las Vegas to sell his FDA-approved, poorly named cleaning product Scieoclean, Andy invites his mom to join him when she confesses that he was named after the love of her life—whom Andy tracks to San Francisco. Hiding this ulterior motive from mom screams of “plot device,” but “The Guilt Trip” doesn’t overplay the revelation. Like many mothers of any religion, Joyce dotes on her son—she tells him “Good luck, sweetheart,” in front of one of his potential buyers—and hopes that he’ll appreciate her the way she adores him.
While not as funny as it should be, “The Guilt Trip” is sweet and adult enough to admit that a parent’s advice, even if it's unsolicited, is often good just the same.
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