Without a Paddle is a washout. What's missing? A good story, for starters.
By PHILIP BOOTH
Published August 19, 2004
From left, Seth Green, Matthew Lillard and Dax Shepard play three childhood friends who are reunited at a funeral in Without a Paddle.
Sure, the appropriately generic title leaves this movie wide open for attack. But I'll shoot anyway: In Without a Paddle, the three buddies lost in the woods aren't the only ones lacking a means of rescue. So is the entire movie.
Director Steven Brill and his cohorts take a trio of lovable morons to the middle of nowhere, where they quickly run out of things to do. Oh, wait. I nearly forgot about the unfunny slapstick, the tired gay baiting, the soggy moralizing (about, you know, living an unencumbered life) and the distinctly suspense-free encounters with white-water rapids, an amorous bear, and marijuana-growing hillbillies.
Without a Paddle's mediocrity becomes even clearer with its many references to superior films. It opens with a four-childhood-friends section hinting at Stand By Me and Breaking Away, pushes off from shore with a suggestion of Deliverance (plus a predictable quote from the John Boorman film and the presence of Burt Reynolds) and nods at The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams and The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper.
D.B., by the way, the new novel by Elwood Reid, offers an intriguing suggestion about the fate of the real-life hijacker who extorted $200,000 from Northwest Orient airlines in 1971, then parachuted into the mountains, disappearing with the loot. The case was never solved, but Reid's novel has the legendary criminal alive, and still on the run from the law.
That's the movie I'd like to see. Instead, we're stuck with this mess from the man who brought us such feckless Adam Sandler vehicles as Mr. Deeds (Brill directed) and Little Nicky (Brill wrote and directed).
Tom (Dax Shepard), Jerry (Matthew Lillard) and Dan (Seth Green), childhood pals reunited for the funeral of a friend, decide to follow up on a long-abandoned dream of finding Cooper and/or his long-lost treasure.
Brill and his team of screenwriters (two) and story writers (three) aren't up to the task of providing actual characters, so instead they offer stereotypes. Dan is the inhaler-snorting, Star Wars-loving nerd, a repressed doctor; Jerry is the fun-loving businessman who can't commit to his girlfriend; and Tom is the terminal braggart, a wealthy Harley salesman who urges the others to go along on the crazy quest.
Then there are the angry, ATV-driving rednecks, the eccentric, bearded mountain man (Reynolds), the quirky nature girls, Flower (Rachel Blanchard) and Butterfly (Christina Moore).
Did we mention the bloody rendezvous with the sharks from Open Water? Oops. That's just wishful thinking.
Without a Paddle
Director: Steven Brill
Cast: Dax Shepard, Matthew Lillard, Seth Green, Burt Reynolds
Screenplay: Jay Leggett and Mitch Rouse
Rating: PG-13; sexual innuendo, profanity, violence