April 6, 2005 -- “Without a Paddle” is a standard sophmoric buddy road comedy movie with an average script and better than average acting. It is along the lines of “Road Trip” and other similar comedies, except the actors are a bit older this time around. It also has different scenery than most road trip movies because it takes place on a river in a wilderness area.
The story has three guys, Dan Mott (Seth Green of “The Italian Job”), Jerry Conlaine (Matthew Lillard of the “Scooby Doo” movies) and Tom Marshall (Dax Shepard of the “Punk'd” TV show), heading down a remote wilderness river in the Pacific Northwest looking for D.B. Cooper's lost treasure. Since none of these guys has any idea how to paddle a canoe, let alone run class five rapids in one, they soon lose their canoe and their gear and are lost in the woods, running around in their skivies.
They run up against a large bear (brilliantly played by Bart the Bear), a snarling deer, murderous marijuana growers, a crazy, gun-toting hermit, eco-tree nymphs and other distractions. There are some passable sight gags and pratfalls along the way. The three main characters are good and the movie, directed by Steven Brill (“Mr. Deeds”) takes its time to develop the characters. Brill also gets good performances out of his actors, particularly Green, Lillard and Ethan Suplee (“Cold Mountain”). Suplee plays Elwood, one of the dangerous pot growers. Burt Reynolds, who once starred in the classic canoe-river running film, “Deliverance,” also has a bit role in the movie. Thank God nobody has to squeal like a pig in this one. I don't think I could take that again.
Overall, this is an average comedy. Although the acting is fine, the script is pretty lame and it doesn't have a lot of good jokes in it. It does have some heart, and the characters have more depth and maturity than you would expect from a film in this genre. I saw this film on DVD. It has a nice “MTV Making the Movie: Without a Paddle” feature which shows just how bad these guys are in a canoe. They tipped over in flatwater! That's pathetic. The actors did go through a lot to make this film, including a lot of dunkings in cold river water (it was shot on a real wild river, not in a studio). There are 13 deleted scenes, none of which belonged in the film. The DVD has three audio tracks, Dolby digital 5.1 (TM), Dolby digital 2.0 surround, both in English, and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround, French. It also has English and Spanish subtitles and closed-captioning. This region one DVD also has a commentary track by director Steven Brill and the cast. There is a theatrical trailer, too. This film rates a C.
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