Road Trip (2000)
Directed by Todd Phillips

Artistic & Entertainment Value

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When Josh (Breckin Meyer), a young college student, accidentally sends his girlfriend a videotape showing him having sex with another woman, he and a group of his friends set off on a road trip to intercept the tape and prevent her from viewing it.

There are films that are bad and entertaining, and there are films that are just so impressively dreadful it is impossible to enjoy them. Todd Phillips' Road Trip is one of the latter.

Instead of sympathizing with Josh as a likeable character in a bad situation, as the director clearly intended the viewer to do, I found him to be so deceitful and manipulative that I actually detested him. I even hoped that his girlfriend would see the tape of him having sex with another woman so that she could escape a relationship with such a person. Whatever the protagonist's flaws, however, he is a marvel of decency when compared with his friends, about whom the less said really is the better. They are, without exception, vicious, conniving, and reprehensible creatures, who, throughout the film, cruelly exploit virtually every person with whom they come into contact. The socially awkward character Kyle (D.J. Qualls), in particular, is so poorly treated the viewer is more likely to feel sorrow for him than anything remotely like mirth.

Road Trip could actually have been made into a successful comedy even with this despicable group by making use of humorous presentations of cruelty, as many very funny black comedies have done. It could even have been successful as sleaze. By reminding the viewer, from time to time, that his movie really has heart, by trying to elicit sympathy for his foul characters despite reveling in their cruelty and insensitivity, however, Phillips ensures that Road Trip fails as either exploitative comedy or trash. The director never allows the viewer to let completely go of his compassionate attachment to the film's characters so that the crueller elements of the movie's humor can be enjoyed, but his attempts to play on the viewer's sympathy for those characters consistently fail because they are so unsympathetic.

This is not to say that Road Trip would have been a success even if it had been consistent. The director's attempts at humor simply are not funny. The jokes scattered throughout the film are predictable, puerile, and almost invariably mean-spirited, and virtually every character and event is recycled from some other adolescent comedy. All are completely uninspired and uninteresting.

Road Trip really is a dreadful embarrassment of a film.

Review by Keith Allen

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