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Without a Paddle

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 01/12/05 15:55:36

"Even drunken frat boys will find this one lame."
1 stars (Sucks)

The three leading characters in “Without a Paddle” have spent their entire lives obsessing over the mystery of D.B. Cooper, whom, you may recall, jumped out of an airplane with a suitcase full of cash some two decades ago, never to be heard from again. So it’s more than awkward when one of the characters stops in the middle of a scene to explain the Cooper legend to his friends, who already know it. True, this bit of exposition is needed to bring any audience member unfamiliar with the legend up to speed, but it’s so poorly placed that all one can think is, “Um, they know this already, dipwad.”

It seems a bit silly to complain that “Without a Paddle,” of all films, is dumbing things down, but it’s a moment like this that best explains why the movie simply doesn’t work. This is a comedy that has ideas, only to stop and explain them, and then re-rexplain them. This is a comedy that thinks it must weasel its way into maudlin territory in order for the plot to work (something about learning to live life to the fullest, blah blah blibbity blah). This is a comedy that includes a “Matrix” parody, because that’s the best they could do. I repeat: a “Matrix” parody is the joke they opted to use, above all others.

Oh, and gay jokes. Many gay jokes, because to the target audience, I suppose, anything suggesting male homosexuality is still cause for mockery and embarrassment. Sigh.

This is also a comedy in which Matthew Lillard does not get to play the obnoxiously care-free, loud-mouthed wild guy, which at first sounds like a major step forward in terms of breaking typecasting - until you discover that it’s Dax Shepard, of “Punk’d” semi-fame, taking the wild guy role. With Lillard instead pulling off the lesson-learing part (Seth Green, meanwhile, takes the stereotypical uptight dork bit), it’s Shepard’s job to do what Lillard used to: offend everyone and Stick It To The Man. And Shepard seems like he’d be good in such a job, if only he weren’t being forced to spout the punchlines in such non-jokes as: “You were a Boy Scout, right?” “No, but I ate a brownie once.” Har har. Ahem. Wake me when it’s over.

I did admittedly laugh a couple of times near the movie’s ending, partly because Shepard (and the should’ve-known-better Green, doing his damnedest to make such unworkable material work) manages the occasional clever delivery, partly because my brain was getting tired. By the time Burt Reynolds - Burt Reynolds!! - shows up in a half-baked “Deliverance” parody, I was ready to throw my hands up and quit.

When you notice that the names behind “Paddle” are also responsible for such duds as “Mr. Deeds,” “Deuce Bigalow,” and “Dickie Roberts,” you realize that this is simply just another in a long line of lazy comedies. Like those films, this is the kind of comedy that’s tossed together without much thought, in the hopes that a decent comic cast and a few scenes of the leads singing in a car to some popular tune might salvage the effort. These are cheap joke movies in which the cheap jokes just don’t work, the kind of movie you forget about before it’s even over. Do we really need another one?

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