Todd Phillips warmed up for The Hangover with Road Trip, an unpretentious—nay, cheerily simple-minded—shock comedy from the era of There's Something About Mary and American Pie. Aimed at college and high-school males, the flick all but guarantees its audience a good time awash in masculine joshing, gross-outs and, of course, boobs. Phillips carries the day by keeping Road Trip just a cut above the typical, but it goes without saying: your mileage may vary.
Tour guide Barry (Tom Green) says of the University of Ithaca, "This is the setting for the greatest story ever told." That ironic undercutting of expectations is a good place to start as Barry introduces us to Josh, a college Everyman fretting over his long-distance relationship with long-term girlfriend Tiffany (Rachel Blanchard), a veterinary student in Austin, Texas. Believing Tiffany has strayed, Josh spectacularly slips with the sexy Beth (Amy Smart), who ups the excitement factor by videotaping their exploits. When that tape accidentally makes its way into the mail to Tiffany—who hasn't cuckolded Josh after all—Josh whips together an 1,800-mile road trip to save his relationship. He recruits friends Rubin (Paulo Costanzo) and E.L. (Seann William Scott) to go the extra mile(s), with guileless Kyle (DJ Qualls) making the grade because he has the requisite car (a Ford Taurus). Their weird friend Barry stays behind, perversely eager to feed mice to Rubin's snake. Wackiness ensues.
I wouldn't go so far as to suggest Road Trip is a smart movie, but it does have the self-reflexiveness to put its heroes in a shortbus after Kyle's car meets an unfortunate end. And if you're to watch only one movie with Canadian comic Tom Green, it's this one, which puts his purposefully awkward shtick to mostly palatable use as his tour group (including prospective student Ethan Suplee) reacts in bemusement. Fred Ward shows up as Kyle's father, supplying an exaggerated variation on the archetype of a fearsome paterfamilias that must be conquered by his son (see Ferris Bueller's Day Off) for the boy to become a man; also, the virginal Kyle must conquer a woman, but that's another story. Anthony Rapp plays a stalker-ish TA who's out to get Beth and therefore out to get Josh, and Andy Dick, Horatio Sanz, and Matt Walsh have amusing bits along the way (listen, too, for Jimmy Kimmel's vocal cameo).
Scott's comic energy helps keep the film rolling, and the gangly DJ Qualls gamely serves as a walking sight gag (sexually paired, in longstanding comic tradition, with his opposite: in this case, an obese black woman). Phillips and Scot Armstrong's script also makes a subtly subversive comment by assigning its smartest character to the stoner slot: Rubin is both pothead and star student, the one who ultimately saves the day for a hero possessed of average intelligence. By balancing its party-minded ethic with a climactic test (albeit a crammed-for one), Road Trip winds up being a touch more college-comprehensive than the average kegger-comedy, but humor connoisseurs will note its flatness, room temperature, and empty calories.
Road Trip gets a hi-def upgrade in a Blu-ray special edition featuring both the Theatrical (1:33:42) and Extended (1:34:13) versions of the film. The image quality gets a significant uptick from standard def, with an all-around satisfying transfer: aside from hardly noticeable edge enhancement, the transfer's grain, black level, contrast, color, and detail all prove creditable, and the print source is quite clean despite the film's age. Likewise, there's no cause for complaint about the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, which ably adds body to the film's music and effects while keeping the dialogue above it all. The Blu-ray now stands as the film's definitive A/V presentation for home theaters.
DVD bonus features return, starting with the cast-and-crew featurette "Ever Been on a Road Trip?" (4:55, SD), which finds Green as on-camera host interviewing his colleagues. The disc also offers up eight worthwhile "Deleted Scenes" (10:54, SD), the "Eels Music Video -- Mr. E's Beautiful Blues" (3:53, SD), and the "Teaser Trailer" (1:51, HD), "International Trailer 1" (2:12, HD), and "International Trailer 2" (2:25, HD).
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