Don’t you hate when a movie doesn’t know what it is? There’s the action movie that tries to be funny and the comedy that is too strong on message to keep you laughing. Sometimes though a movie hits it mark and actually is able to balance comedy and message which is really a cinematic sweet spot.

If you look it up The Guilt Trip is a comedy. It has to be, Seth Rogen stars with Barbara Streisand – the Roz Focker we all know and love, as son and mom. And hey, we have been pitched at by the trailers to “Get ready for one mother of a road trip,” You can almost feel a giggle bubbling up from your sternum.

But what happens in The Guilt Trip is that humor rides shotgun while the driver becomes the lesson. There was a time when I thought that the movie was going to suffer from TMT – Too Much Talking – a condition that prevails when the need for exposition through dialogue exceeds the speed of the action. However, in this case I drew a deep breath and before I could sigh the symptom had passed.

At its core, the story is about the effect that unrequited love has on its characters. The search for the truth in these cases propels the Brewsters across the country in a downsized Chevrolet through seemingly incongruous weather conditions, while the principals experience (note here that I didn’t say enjoy) some serious bonding time.

On the surface, Rogen’s character is a principled scientist turned entrepreneur whose cleaning product and checkbook both depend on the success of the pitches that he has scheduled during the week long cross country trip. Stops at Costco and HSN ensue while stays at low star motels become a necessity.

Along the way, Streisand’s character offers some marketing tips to her son who is overly protective of every aspect of his product. In the end it’s one of her ideas that proves decisive in the product’s acceptance. This comes, however, after a total meltdown of the relationship between the two.

When the travelers reach San Francisco the last stop has nothing to do with a pitch. Andrew Brewster has tracked down an individual whom he thinks is his mother’s first love, believing that he is still available. The final resolution of the plot revolves around one word being spoken by that person’s child, which seems to me to be an inspired piece of writing.
There are those who will think that this movie isn’t funny, which is understandable because they may have gotten ready for “one mother of a road trip.” On the other hand, there may be those who see value in the message that drives the plot. The first group will no doubt feel cheated while the second group will take something away from the 95 minutes they spent in the theatre.