Without a Paddle

Starring: Seth Green, Matthew Lillard and Dax Shepard
Paramount Home Entertainment
RRP: 15.99
Certificate: 12
Available 25 April 2005

Four friends grow to adulthood together; after one of them dies the remaining three decide to embark on a quest to fulfil a childhood promise. The three remaining city slickers; Dan, Tom and Jerry, head off into the country to combat bears, mad locals and their own insecurities in search of D.B.Cooper's treasure...

Without a Paddle is a very confused film. It's difficult, after watching it, just who the writer and director thought the target audience were. Initially, its starts as the usual adolescent fare that we have come to expect of the average, modern, comedy film, but then turns into part trip of personal discovery and part pastiche of deliverance - even to the point of having Burt Reynolds appear in the cast. There are also parts of a love story thrown in there for good measure, though from the extras the better part of these ended up on the cutting room floor. This is all wrapped up with a particular type of Americana myth - in that the story of D. B. Cooper, whose treasure they are after, is a real one. He was the only man who successfully robbed an airline and bailed out, mid-air, never to be heard from again.

Seth Green, who plays Dan, is very personable in his role though one wonders if he isn't choosing roles based on the strength of his comedic appearances in the Austin Powers films. He, like the others, does what he can with a too slim screenplay. Matthew Lillard, better known for his appearance in the Scream film and playing shaggy in the Scooby-Doo live action movies, is less effective. But to be fair to him most of his best moments appear to have been cut out to increase the pace of the film. The most interesting character is played by a relatively unknown, Dax Shepard, who has been in a number of films that nobody has heard of, but I think after this film we will be seeing much more of this actor - he's a funny guy.

Two of the better comic creations of the film are the redneck backwoods farmers, Elwood and Dennis played by Ethan Suplee and Abraham Benrubi. They and their stoner dogs bring a particular comedy high as the dope growers who chase the boys for much of the middle and latter, sections of the film; the chase through the marijuana field is very funny. Sad to say they provide some relief, too little too late, in an otherwise chuckle free movie.

The disc comes with a generous helping of extras. There is the usual self congratulatory 'making of' featurette, in which it is revealed that the film was made with the same crew who made The Lord of the Rings films, as well as additional scenes and the theatrical trailer. The funniest extra it the MTV interstitials which are ostensibly adverts but with extra pieces tacked on to the beginning - many of which are funnier than the stuff that made it into the movie. The print is clean, as you would expect from a modern film, and sound is 5.1, but this is rarely used to its utmost with the rear speakers providing little in the way of ambient backdrop.

Ultimately the film suffers not from poor performances but what appears to be a poorly conceived script. It's not heart warming enough for a buddy movie, the romance appears to have been tacked on and worst of all it just isn't funny enough for a comedy. What you have is a slightly funny, slightly touching film which fails to satisfy.

Charles Packer

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