Road Trip (United States, 2000)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

In the 1980s, Porky's spawned an era of teen sex comedies that took most of the decade to die out. Last year, American Pie re-invented the genre, albeit with more wit, moxie, and forthrightness than anything in the '80s ever showed. Todd Phillips' Road Trip becomes the first 2000 follow-up to American Pie - a road movie that is more interested in gross-out jokes and sex gags than in getting its four protagonists from point A (Ithaca) to point B (Austin). As with American Pie, the film spends time developing a degree of personality for its characters - they're certainly not well-rounded, but they are intended to be more than cardboard cutouts to hang the humor on. Unlike the earlier movie, however, Road Trip lacks the surprising romantic sweetness that gave American Pie its more widespread appeal.

Josh (Breckin Meyer), a University of Ithaca student, is suffering through a romantic crisis. His life-long girlfriend, Tiffany (Rachel Blanchard), who is attending the University of Texas, has stopped returning his phone calls, and Josh is convinced she's cheating on him. So, haunted by visions of her in another guy's arms, he succumbs to the seductive wiles of Beth (Amy Smart), a girl who has a crush on him. The camcorder is running while they have sex, and the tape is accidentally mailed to Tiffany the next day (one of Josh's roommates mixes it up with the "I miss you" tape Josh had intended to send). And, shortly after the tape gone out, Tiffany calls and explains that she has been out of touch because her grandfather died. So, in a last-ditch attempt to intercept the tape and save his relationship, Josh and three friends (Sean William Scott, DJ Qualls, Paolo Costanzo) get in a car and head south on a three-day, 1800-mile road trip.

As with all road movies, it's not getting there that matters, but what happens along the way. And, in the case of Josh and company, that means plenty - a lot of which has to do with sex. The film features all sorts of outrageous and potentially offensive situations: a diner cook who makes French toast in a way that may discourage anyone from ever eating it again, copious gratuitous female nudity, feet and panty fetishes, sperm donations, a prostate massage, the robbery of a blind woman, and an encounter with a horny old man. In addition to chronicling the mishaps that define Josh's trek to Austin, Road Trip also follows three other plot threads. The first involves the parents of Kyle, one of Josh's friends, who believe their son has been kidnapped. Kyle's father (Fred Ward), armed with a gun, sets off for Austin on a rescue mission. Meanwhile, Beth mistakenly believes that Josh has gone to Boston (sounds like "Austin"), so she heads up there to inform a "Tiffany Henderson" that her boyfriend has been unfaithful. (Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned...) Finally, there's Barry (Tom Green), one of Josh's friends who doesn't make the journey, and his saga of feeding a live mouse to a lazy snake.

Road Trip isn't as smart or as funny as American Pie, but there are still some big laughs to be had. As expected, the dramatic elements amount to nothing more than inconsequential filler, but there's enough genuinely amusing humor strewn throughout to keep things moving. Phillips probably wants us to care about the characters and their fates more than we actually do. While it's true that he gives each of them a backstory and the semblance of a character arc, we never connect with any of these individuals on a deep or meaningful level.

The actors are fine for their roles, although, based on what they have to do here, it's difficult to determine whether any of them have range or talent. Breckin Meyer is affable, but not much more. Sean William Scott (who was in American Pie) has the sex-crazed college student down to a "T". DJ Qualls plays a credible nerd, and, like all movie nerds, he experiences a life-changing moment. Paolo Costanzo has the least visible part of the four leads - his portrayal of an intellectual druggie often fades into the background. Tom Green narrates the story, which is presented in flashback form - this allows Green, who is perhaps the most consistently amusing performer in the film, some additional screen time, and also provides an amusing explanation for some of the gratuitous nudity. The girls, Amy Smart and Rachel Blanchard, look cute but aren't given much to do.

Determining who will be offended by Road Trip isn't difficult - anyone who was comfortable throughout There's Something About Mary and American Pie won't have any trouble with this movie. Whether those individuals enjoy Road Trip is an altogether different question. The movie is sloppily made, but there's almost a sly charm to the sloppiness, and the unevenness of the filmmaking doesn't detract from the picture's most obvious laughs. Set loose amidst so many big-budget giants, Road Trip may cause a few viewers to take the detour to a theater where it's playing, but this is a path that might better be left unexplored until the movie reaches the video store.

Road Trip (United States, 2000)

Run Time: 1:33
U.S. Release Date: 2000-05-19
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Nudity, Sexual Content)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: