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Dustin Putman

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Road Trip (2000)
3 Stars

Directed by Todd Phillips
Cast: Breckin Meyer, Seann William Scott, DJ Qualls, Paulo Costanzo, Amy Smart, Tom Green, Rachel Blanchard, Fred Ward, Anthony Rapp, Andy Dick, Ellen Albertini Dow.
2000 – 91 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for profanity, nudity, sexual situations, violence, and drug use).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, May 20, 2000.

Last summer, "American Pie," an outrageous teen raunchfest, became one of the biggest sleeper smash hits of the year. With a style that harkened back to the sleazy high school/college movies of the early '80s, such as "Porky's" and "National Lampoon's Animal House," but with brighter stars and an overall sweeter screenplay, "American Pie," along with the success of 1998's "There's Something About Mary," have regenerated a seemingly dead genre, much like "Scream" did for slasher films in 1996. The first copycat out of the gate is "Road Trip," directed by documentary filmmaker Todd Phillips (1998's controversial "Frat House"). Maybe 'copycat' is too strong a word, as Phillips, who also cowrote the script with Scot Armstrong, has used "American Pie" as an inspiration to make his very own rowdy, lewd, and crude college comedy that, like its predecessors, goes straight for the jugular and doesn't mind shocking its audience, just as long as it gets everyone to laugh. And it does, in spades.

Josh (Breckin Meyer) has always been best friends with Tiffany (Rachel Blanchard), and once they became teenagers, their friendship turned to love. After graduating from high school, however, they were separated by college, Josh at Ithaca in NY, and Tiffany at Austin University in TX. Successfully holding a long-term relationship thus far, and making sure to call each other every day, Josh begins to suspect that Tiffany has started to cheat on him after she doesn't return his calls for several days. Egged on by his best friend, E.L. (Seann William Scott), Josh ends up sleeping with college cutie Beth (Amy Smart), who has had a crush on him. Taping their bedplay, Josh is horrified the next morning to discover that their sex tape was actually sent in the mail, headed for Tiffany in Austin, instead of the "I Miss You" tape that was supposed to be mailed. Worse yet, Tiffany finally calls apologizing for not answering his calls. It seems her grandfather passed away and she's been out of town.

With finals approaching in less than a week, one of which Josh needs at least a "B+" in to pass the class, he frantically sets out on an 1800-mile trek to intercept the tape before Tiffany gets ahold of it. In true comedic fashion, everything that could go wrong does for Josh, E.L., fellow friend Rubin (Paulo Costanzo), and geeky Kyle (DJ Qualls), whose car they force him to let them take. Meanwhile, Beth sets off for Boston (getting it mixed up with Austin) to admit to Tiffany that she slept with Josh, after feeling guilty. All of this is told in story flashback format by wacky 8-year Ithaca student Barry (Tom Green), while he is giving a campus tour for prospective students and parents.

"Road Trip" is neither deep, nor meaningful, nor particularly substantial, and it doesn't try to be. While "American Pie" seriously focused on relationships amidst the outlandish comedy, "Road Trip" is strictly a wild comedy, and it works surprisingly well, sure to attract wide audiences that break out from the teenage crowd. Trips to a sperm bank, an all-black frat house, a school for the blind, and the sight of an old man with an erect penis are all on display here, and while surely madcap and shocking, the movie is never mean, and unlike the gratuitous, offensive "Porky's," treats its female characters with respect, rather than looking upon them as merely sex objects with breasts. There are, however, some of the latter frequently on display here.

As with "American Pie," the entire cast works as a unit, and without any one of them, something would feel missing from the proceedings. Breckin Meyer (1999's "Go") is a likable, if somewhat bland, leading man as Josh, but he is ably supported by the cast that surrounds him. Seann William Scott ("American Pie") is a standout as the trash-talking E.L., who discovers, to his delight, a new way to receive sexual pleasure, and DJ Qualls, in his film debut, is well-cast as the meek, virginal Kyle. Absent from films for quite a while while he starred in Broadway's Tony Award Winner, "Rent," it is nice to see Anthony Rapp (1987's "Adventures in Babysitting") again, this time playing a creepy Ithaca student who grows progressively jealous of Josh when Beth is stolen from his grasp (nevermind that she has no interest at all in him, anyway). In the female department, Amy Smart (1999's "Outside Providence") is fresh-faced and proves to have a knack for humor, as Beth, while Rachel Blanchard (1999's "The Rage: Carrie 2") is underutilized and mostly wasted as the object of Josh's affections, Tiffany. Best of all, however, is Tom Green, hysterical as the loony Barry, who gains the most pleasure of all when Rubin assigns him the job of feeding a mouse to his pet boa constrictor. Green gets most of the best lines and overall funny scenes, despite not even being onscreen during the actual road trip itself.

It's difficult to discuss "Road Trip" without giving away its many laugh-inducing sure-to-be-talked-about scenes, but suffice to say, it is a very funny comedy, perhaps the best since last year's largely underrated "Drop Dead Gorgeous." It is also the type of movie that was meant to be seen in a crowded theater of high school and college students with a sense of humor, ready and willing to laugh. If, for some unknown reason, you miss "Road Trip" during its theatrical release, you will also be missing out on a genuinely entertaining filmgoing experience.

©2000 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman