WITHOUT A PADDLE
After the accidental death of a buddy, three guys (Seth Green, Matthew Lillard and Dax Shepard) set out to fulfill their boyhood dreams of finding long-lost ransom money somewhere in the Oregon wilderness. They take a canoe upriver and everything that can go wrong does. Hunted by two crazed backwoods dope farmers, they encounter a grisly Sheriff (Ray Baker), a bear (Bart) that has serious plans, they fall over death-defying rapids, meet tree-hugging hippie chicks (Rachel Blanchard, Christina Moore) and finally an eccentric old mountain man (Burt Reynolds) who might lead them back to safety...or shoot them.
Review by Louise Keller:
An infectious comedy about three buddies who embark on a treasure hunt in a canoe, Without a Paddle is a one-way ticket to rollicking fun. With an affectionate nod to Deliverance, the premise is way off the reality meter, and the rewards are the result of wacky, broad comedy and characters that are as lovable as they are offbeat.
As kids, they used to hang out together and dream of doing great things. Then they went their separate ways, when reality hasn't lived up to expectations. Seth Green's Doctor Dan is a successful doctor whose neuroses and phobias seem to have overtaken his life. Matthew Lillard plays Jerry, a high-flying executive who doesn't have time to appreciate anything, and Dax Shephard's Tom is a Harley-riding wild child with a lively sense of exaggeration. Meeting at Billy's funeral, and reliving old times in their old cubby house re-ignites their dreams, and before long, they are paddling down the rapids in the wilderness, in search of a lost ransom.
Director Steven Brill has a light touch, and makes the most of every crazy opportunity. The performances are all terrific, and the casting of Burt Reynolds as the eccentric mountain man is inspired. Bart The Bear steals the film as the 1000 pound grisly bear that first swallows Doctor Dan's mobile phone, then mistakes him for a bear cub. To top it off, the joke is prolonged because Dan's phone has a distinctive Star-Wars theme ring tone, which plays at the most unexpected times. The buddies are chased by two hefty, dangerous and dumb pot-growers, and the scenes with the two long-haired hippie environmentalists living in a remote tree house are lots of fun.
Shot in remote and spectacular New Zealand locations, Without a Paddle offers non-stop laughs throughout its hilarious, crazy adventure. I chuckled, then giggled and laughed out loud many times. A fun rib-tickler.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Never mind the mortgage or the phone bill, get out there to the Oregon bush, where the rivers are wild, the bears are scheming, the hippie girls are dancing and the big, burly backwoodsmen (Ethan Suplee, Abraham Benrubi) are ...barbarians. Join Dan (Seth Green), a neurotic doctor; Jerry (Matthew Lillard), a business high-flier on the edge of burnout; and Tom (Dax Shepard), the wild one, as they navigate the untamed countryside with unfailing naivety. You'll enjoy it...as long as you stay in your seat just watching Murphy's law come thumping down on the hapless city slickers.
Without A Paddle is a highly amusing combo of buddy movie, fish out of water movie, road movie and adventure, in which the characters are funnier than the situations. It's a clever script, with many stings and quips, but more to the point, the writers understand that it's essential for us to believe in the characters if any of it is going to be funny. What is also clever in the direction, is that the dangerous situations the three buddies encounter are perfectly pitched as believably dangerous but not so as to alter the film's tone.
It's Dan's fears and phobias that provide the vehicle for mishaps to be turned into comic scenes, and the banter between the men is the rigging on which the film's tone hangs.
Careful not to (over)play it for laughs, the cast makes the adventure entertaining without being too flippant. There are little black edges to the film that give it texture, and the basic premise of childhood friends finally fulfilling a dream is serious enough to be 'worth' our involvement.
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WITHOUT A PADDLE (M)
CAST: Anthony Starr, Dax Shepard, Matthew Lillard, Seth Green, Nadine Bernecker, Rachel Blanchard, Christina Moore, Ray Baker, Ethan Suplee, Abraham Benrubi, and Burt Reynolds, plus Bart the Bear
PRODUCER: Donald De Line
DIRECTOR: Steven Brill
SCRIPT: Jay Leggett, Mitch Rouse, (story by Fred Woolf, Harris Goldberg, Tom Nursall)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jonathan Brown
EDITOR: Debra Neil-Fisher, Peck Prior
MUSIC: Christoph Beck
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Perry Andelin Blake
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 18, 2004
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
VIDEO RELEASE: March 24, 2005