Rated R - Running Time: 1:31 - Released 5/19/00

I have oft bemoaned the poverty of substance in teen movies; the execution of these films is usually on a par with the shallow nature of their subject matter — not only are they about immature people with immature sensibilities, but they appear to be written and directed by members of that sophomoric group. Occasionally, however, you have one like Ferris Bueller's Day Off, or Detroit Rock City, or Road Trip, which, though they don't exactly present an intellectual treatise, are at least well-written and well-performed. Directed by Todd Phillips, who also co-wrote the film with Scot Armstrong, Road Trip features a talented cast, a clever story line, and some hysterically funny situations. Phillips is clearly trying to follow in the footsteps of last year's fantastically successful American Pie; in my opinion, his film is even better.

The story of Road Trip is told by a student who, it could be charitably said, is not playing with a full deck. Barry (Tom Green) is a tour guide and perpetual student at Ithaca University; one of Phillips's cleverest devices is the decidedly impressionistic nature of Barry's version of events. Green's oddball delivery ably matches the part.

Barry's friend Josh (Breckin Meyer) and his girlfriend Tiffany (Rachel Blanchard) have been together since they were kids. However, since Josh went to Ithaca (New York) and Tiffany enrolled at the University of Austin (Texas), the two are forced to engage in a long-distance romance. Plagued by fears of Tiffany's infidelity, Josh tries repeatedly to contact her, but gets no response. In a moment of weakness, he is convinced by party-boy E. L. (Seann William Scott) to get together with Beth (Amy Smart), an attractive girl who has a serious crush on him. They not only sleep together, but videotape it, just for fun. And, as it goes in fluffy stories like this, the tape gets mixed up with the lovesick video Josh had made for Tiffany, and is mailed to her by mistake.

In Barry's hazy interpretation, which includes inexplicably topless coeds and occasional audience participation from the baffled members of his tour, Josh decides he must travel cross-country during midterm week and try to beat the package to Tiffany's residence hall in Austin. He and E. L., along with physics genius Rubin (Paulo Costanzo) and Kyle (DJ Qualls), a geek who owns a car, set out on the 1800-mile journey, leaving Barry behind to take care of "Mitch" the python. Barry is eager to oblige, since he desperately wants to witness the snake consuming a live mouse. The boys' trip takes them from one dilemma to the next, including misadventures at a black fraternity, a sperm bank, a school for the blind, and Barry's grandparents' house.

This film is very much in line with the genre to which it belongs; there are no great philosophical statements to be made. It's a beer-drinking, dope-smoking low comedy with plenty of T and A and a warped sense of values. But in this case, and unlike many of its kind, it's actually intelligent, and therefore, funny. In my book, that excuses a lot of its transgressions. ****

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

See Current Reviews

See FilmQuips Archive