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Without a Paddle
2004 - PG-13 - 99 Mins.
Director: Steven Brill
Producer: Donald De Line
Written By: Jay Leggett, Mitch Rouse
Starring: Matthew Lillard, Seth Green, Dax Shepard, Burt Reynolds, Ethan Suplee
Review by: Joe Rickey
Official Site: www.withoutapaddlemovie.com
   
Childhood friends Jerry Conlaine (Matthew Lillard), Tom Marshall (Dax Shepard), and Dan Mott (Seth Green) have grown apart over the years. Jerry works at a monotonous desk job and struggles to keep his relationship with girlfriend Denise (Bonnie Somerville) afloat. Tom is living day by day, riding his souped-up Harley cross country. Meanwhile, Dan has become a doctor despite himself having multiple phobias, including the totally irrational fear of saran wrap (He worries that it will be draped over his head and he’ll be unable to breathe). When the death of another friend, Billy (Anthony Starr) brings them together once again, it is only a matter of time before they’re off doing something in the name of camaraderie and friendship.

After the funeral they visit their old treehouse and begin reminiscing about how, as children, they had hoped to find the lost treasure of the famed D.B. Cooper. Well, after searching through the treehouse they discover that Billy had been working on finding the treasure himself over the years. He even had created a map to the treasure. On a whim, the three friends decide to venture out into the Pacific Northwest wilderness and claim the treasure as a way of paying tribute to their recently deceased friend. Their quest leads them on an adventure that includes a wily Grizzly Bear, wicked rapids, two murderous pot farmers, an equally wily old coot (Burt Reynolds), and a pair of unnaturally hairy women.

‘Without a Paddle’ is a fairly amusing film; a combination of ‘City Slickers’ and ‘Deliverance’ played as a buddy comedy. Director Steven Brill establishes a pleasant pace to the proceedings right from the get go with a home video of the friends as elementary school buddies. They are conducting one of their hair-brained stunts as each one attempts to jump across a shallow creek on a BMX bike. All of them make it except for Dan, which leads to painfully humorous results.

The film also benefits from a screenplay that surprisingly, doesn’t dumb down the material for the teenage crowd, most of the time at least. While there are indeed a few attempts at comedy that land with a thud, more often than not the film hits its intended mark. The refreshing asset to the comedy is that there are the expected physical comedy gags but they are successfully intermingled with the more sharp-witted comedy inherent to the situation. Finally, there is a film that includes a riff on ‘The Matrix’ where it doesn’t feel out of place or context, actually working to the film’s advantage.

The performances too are better than expected. Playing the straight man for once, Matthew Lillard is adept at providing the film with an emotional core; insuring that the focus of the friend’s trip is never lost. As the bumbling worrywart, Seth Green is rather funny as he ably garners laughs from a character type so overdone in films these days. As the requisite clown of the group, Dax Shepard is a find; abrasive yet imminently likable at the same time. What is perhaps most important is that the three actors have great chemistry with one another. One easily buys their bond of friendship.

‘Without a Paddle’ utilizes a well-worn framework to create a totally refreshing comedy of fellowship.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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