Case Number 00941

ROAD TRIP

DreamWorks // 2000 // 95 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Erick Harper (Retired) // February 23rd, 2001

The Charge

Love is never having to say you're sorry you made a sex tape with a woman and then mailed it to your girlfriend.

Opening Statement

Dreamworks is known for making good movies, and for turning them into excellent DVD presentations. I have from time to time pondered what kind of DVD presentation Dreamworks would make of a terrible movie, a total bomb, a waste of celluloid. I now have the answer.

Facts of the Case

Josh and Tiffany have been best friends since they were kids, and have been dating each other since they were old enough to be interested in the opposite sex. Now, they are freshmen in college; Josh is at the University of Ithaca in upstate New York, and Tiffany is at the University of Austin, in Texas. It will be instrumental to the plot (such as it is) for you to understand that Josh has a video camera in his room, and often sends Tiffany video love notes. When Josh is forced to go thirty minutes with no communication from Tiffany, he naturally does what any guy would do; he imagines the worst and assumes that his life-long friend has dumped him. Naturally, the first thing he does in response is to go to a house party, where a number of choice babes are conveniently allowing themselves to be auctioned off for the evening. Josh winds up with the lovely Beth, who has had her eyes on him for some time. They adjourn to his room, where she spies the video camera and decides that they should make a tape of themselves, ahem, "gettin' busy," just as any self-respecting college-age female would do on a first date.

As one might imagine, the sex tape with Beth gets switched with Josh's love tape for Tiffany, and is soon wending its way to Austin, courtesy of the US Postal Service. Josh decides that his only option is to get to Texas first and intercept the tape before Tiffany can see it. Josh's friends E.L. and Rubin join him for the adventure, but they have one problem; no one among them has a car. So, they turn to Kyle, the reclusive, pale, thin geek down the hall, who has a car. Kyle comes along for the ride, primarily to be the butt of many jokes. Having assembled their expedition, Josh and his crew set out for Austin.

The Evidence

Road Trip is a misogynistic, racist, idiotic piece of trash. However, we must give the devils their due, and try to find something positive to say about it; after all, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

The one identifiable bright spot in this whole sorry mess is Breckin Meyer (Clueless, 54, Tail Lights Fade). In both his looks and his performance he seems like a younger version of Noah Wyle of E.R. fame. He turns in the best performance in the cast, but he has an unfair advantage; he is the only one given much to work with. He alone among the cast gives the impression that he might do well if given the opportunity to work with real material in the future.

We have come to expect the best from the Dreamworks DVD department, and they have done a good if not outstanding job with this DVD. Picture quality is sharp and clear for the most part, with only a few instances of obvious edge enhancement or ringing artifacts. Darker scenes, especially the pivotal liaison between Josh and Beth, are noticeably grainy, as are a number of outdoor scenes on the Ithaca campus; it is unclear whether this is a problem with the source material or the DVD presentation. There were also a few more film nicks and blemishes than I would have expected. Colors for the most part seem solid, but I did notice some bleeding in the oranges and reds, notable the obnoxious red-orange shirt worn by a mother escorting her son on a tour of the Ithaca campus.

The audio is mostly dialogue-driven and unremarkable. Dreamworks has included a DTS 5.1 track, a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track. While I appreciate the solid support Dreamworks gives to DTS audio, I can see no reason for its inclusion on this disc. There is really nothing in this movie that takes advantage of a DTS audio mix. In this particular case, the DTS audio track did not have much of an advantage over the Dolby Digital 5.1 track. It was perhaps a bit sharper and provided a hair more directional separation in the house party scene in Chapter 4 and the creek jump scene in Chapter 10, but other than that it was mostly just louder. In any case, neither audio presentation was as good as one might expect; on both tracks dialogue had a tendency to sound hollow and exhibited some "echo chamber" effect.

Dreamworks is known for extra content, and this disc is no exception. There is a deleted scenes section with eight scenes. It is hard to imagine how bad a scene would have to be in order to be cut from Road Trip, but these fit the bill. There are fairly lengthy production notes included; per Dreamworks usual practice, they are the same as the liner notes inside the DVD case. They are interesting only in that they talk extensively about producer Ivan Reitman and his involvement with the immortal classic National Lampoon's Animal House; this comes across as a lame attempt to build credibility for this pale imitation. Cast and crew bios are provided. As usual, Dreamworks went all-out on these, including generously lengthy bios of nine actors and eleven behind the scenes filmmakers.

Other extra content includes two theatrical trailers which give away every moderately amusing moment in the movie, a "Making of" featurette with Tom Green which is essentially a five-minute extended trailer with the same "highlights," DVD-ROM content, and a music video by the Eels for the song "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues." The video includes more shots of the cast lip-synching than the actual band members, and was apparently shot during production on the same sets. It's a catchy tune, and the video is a lot more fun than the movie itself.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Road Trip uses a plot that is not only totally unbelievable, but not even original. This movie was made once before, in 1998 as Overnight Delivery, starring Paul Rudd and Reese Witherspoon. As I recall, that movie wasn't much better, but at least it had the virtue of (relative) originality.

Tom Green (MTV's The Tom Green Show) appears in this movie in a framing device as a tour guide showing potential students and their parents around the Ithaca campus. He then relates the story of Josh and the gang as the greatest thing that ever happened at Ithaca. Green does have a few good moments; his tour is dangerously close to the one I received when visiting my future college when I was a senior in high school. Green is responsible for most of the few laughs to be found in this movie. However, for the most part he is shockingly un-amusing and comes across as more or less a complete idiot. I've never seen his MTV show; perhaps if I had, I would better understand his appeal. As it is, he is more annoying than funny.

Road Trip's problems run a lot deeper than a weak, unoriginal plot or lame actors, however. I'm no bleeding-heart feminist type, but the depictions of women in this movie go beyond normal Hollywood stereotyping and become truly offensive and misogynistic. I am floored that a movie that features women auctioning themselves off at a drunken house party didn't incite protests all over the country. That is just one example of the dehumanization of women in this movie. Another prime example comes later on, when Kyle the skinny white geek winds up having sex with a rather large black woman after a drunken party. He proudly displays her underwear to his traveling companions the next day, who respond by asking him if he killed a cheetah. The whole movie is built around the idea of women as conquests and trophies, and this is just the most egregious example. Sure, lots of movies do that, but few are so blatant and insulting in the process. Adding insult to injury, Amy Smart (Outside Providence, Varsity Blues) who plays Beth states in the production notes, "I enjoy playing strong women, and I like that the young women in Road Trip aren't just sidekicks for the guys; they're substantial characters in their own right." Excuse me, but did she even read the script? If this weren't bad enough, Rachel Blanchard (Sugar and Spice, Carrie 2:The Rage), the actress who portrays Tiffany, goes on to say that "One of the things that appealed to me about the script was that it wasn't just a guys' movie. The girls in this story aren't passive." What?! I'm sorry, I must have been watching something else. Perhaps I'm putting too much thought into a harmless little movie, but when the actresses involved start spewing mularkey like that to justify their existence in the picture, it strikes me that they know how bad it is and are desperately trying to cover their tracks. I won't even go into the racist undertones of the gang's stop at a black fraternity house in Tennessee.

Beyond that, this movie has the same problems that face most of what passes for comedy these days. There used to be an old saying that the first rule of comedy is that it should be funny. Someone should write that saying on a two-by-four and beat the people who made Road Trip over the head with it.* Random instances of sex, male bodily fluids, pot, erections, racial patronizing, and taking advantage of the handicapped are not by themselves funny and can not carry a movie.

Closing Statement

Road Trip? Road apple is more like it. It's not good clean fun, it's not even good dirty fun, it's just not fun. It doesn't qualify as a guilty pleasure, because there is no pleasure to be had here. This movie is a complete waste of time and everyone should avoid it like the plague.

The Verdict

This movie is guilty, guilty, GUILTY! Road Trip was so completely awful that I may have to rethink my opposition to the death penalty.

Dreamworks is another matter, and will require more deliberations. I would normally acquit them on the strength of their better-than-average DVD presentation. This time, I'm not so sure; they may have crossed the line to "aiding and abetting."

We stand adjourned.

* Note: DVD Verdict, its editors, staff, and contributors, in no way, shape or form condone or encourage beating any filmmakers over the head with any sort of lumber, regardless of what may be written thereon.

[Editor's Note: However, we do condone and encourage beating certain filmmakers with objects other than lumber, such as a tube sock filled with quarters or the pointy end of a cell phone.]

Review content copyright © 2001 Erick Harper; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 89
Audio: 90
Extras: 81
Acting: 50
Story: 30
Judgment: 25

Perp Profile
Studio: DreamWorks
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)

Subtitles:
* English

Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Unrated

Distinguishing Marks
* "Road Kill" Deleted Scenes
* Production Notes
* "Ever Been on a Road Trip?" Behind the Scenes Featurette
* Cast and Crew Biographical Information
* Theatrical Trailers
* Music Video: "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues" by The Eels
* DVD-ROM Content

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0215129/combined