Without a Paddle

Without a Paddle is everything it sets out to be, but given that its aims are fairly low, that's not a great thing to say about the movie.  It's the typical lowbrow buddy movie, with lots of scatological humor, sexual references, and outdated stereotypes, intentionally reminiscent of Deliverance in its canoeing into the wild plot and inclusion of Burt Reynolds (Time of the Wolf, Driven).  Three guys are going into the Oregon wilderness to find a hidden treasure as a tribute to their recently departed friend.  Each one has a personality quirk, but their time in the woods will ensure that all three emerge for the better.  Jerry (Matthew Lillard, Scooby-Doo 2:  Monsters Unleashed, The Perfect Score) is commitment-phobic, Dan (Seth Green, Scooby-Doo 2:  Monsters Unleashed, Party Monster) is too uptight, and Tom (Dax Shepherd, Cheaper by the Dozen, Hairshirt) isn't really doing much of anything, and tends to lie too much. 

When Jerry, Tom, and Dan were kids, they hung out with Billy.  They drifted apart in the intervening years, and at Billy's funeral they discover that he found a treasure map, purportedly left by bank robber DB Cooper.  Jerry sees this as a way to reconnect with his friends and to honor Billy's memory, so the three decide to go off in search of the treasure.  Without a Paddle is basically a hijink-filled trip into the woods, beginning on canoe.  The trio quickly lose the canoe, as well as most of their clothes.  Along the way they meet an amorous bear, Elwood (Ethan Suplee, The Butterfly Effect, Cold Mountain) and Dennis (Abraham Benrubi, Open Range, ZigZag), two gun-toting hicks, a crazy old man (Reynolds), and Flower (Rachel Blanchard, Sugar & Spice, Road Trip) and Butterfly (Christina Moore, The Sore Losers, Second Skin), two hot New Age-y environmentalists.  They move quickly from one situation to another, most of them supposedly funny. 

The main dilemma for screenwriters Fred Wolf (Dickie Roberts, Joe Dirt), Harris Goldberg (Love Conquers Paul, The Master of Disguise) and Tom Nursall (I'll Be Home for Christmas, A Step Toward Tomorrow), working off a story by Jay Leggett and Mitch Rouse (Employee of the Month) is that nothing is that funny.  The entire film feels too calculated.  Everybody wanted to write something that people would think is funny, so instead it feels too forced.  Jokes about hairy-legged women tree huggers, horny old crazy men, or stupid hicks are way too overdone, and too easy.  Making jokes about them is just plain lazy.  The one shining joke is a backhanded comment towards the now-defunct Creed.  The screenwriters are also a little too obvious in their attempts to show character growth at the end of the film.  Yes, the experience was pretty crazy, but do they really have to turn everything into a cliché?

Zach Braff was originally up for the role of Tom.  He declined, so they cloned him and made Shepherd.  Okay not really, but they really do look similar.  And he is the only "new" element of the film.  Lillard and Green are playing the characters they tend to gravitate towards in their other movies.  The most unusual aspect of Without a Paddle is director Stephen Brill's (Mr. Deeds, Little Nicky) reluctance to push the envelope in terms of his gross-out comedy.  Everything is suitably disgusting, but only moderately so.  The same type of humor has been done before, and it was funnier the first time.  It's the type of humor that junior high boys will laugh at, with a healthy does of 80s nostalgia that will probably fly right over their heads. 

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 34 minutes, Rated PG-13 for drug content, sexual material, language, crude humor, and some language.

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