The premise: three buddies (Green, Lillard, and Dax Shepard) get together after the death of one of their best childhood friends and decide to take the road trip their deceased friend had mapped out for the group before kicking the bucket. The target find the lost treasure of D. B. Cooper. Huh? Well, the good thing is the plot isnt all that important. The whole idea of searching for a lost treasure is just an excuse for the film to place its three stars in dangerous situations. These poor guys go on one of the wildest canoe rides in a comedy, dodge bullets, meet up with some scary locals, and endure the worst nature can throw at them, all for the sake of some wickedly funny physical comedy segments (and a good measure of not-so-funny jokes that just lay there).
Lets pause briefly to share the gospel of camping and exploring the wilderness as told in Without a Paddle: Bears dont necessarily back away when youre in the fetal position, if you run into mountain men with a field of pot run like hell without first sampling their product, and exploring the wild is like taking a trip to Las Vegas - what happens when youre freezing cold and lost in the wilderness, stays in the wilderness.
The first thing you notice about Without a Paddle is just how short Seth Green really is. Seriously, the guy looks like a little kid next to Matthew Lillard and Dax Shepard. Greens size is then naturally the butt of many jokes (including his bonding act with a bear scene). Because this is a buddy comedy, the chemistry between the three is what has to sell the film. Lillard and Green have worked together before, and adding Shepard into the mix seems pretty natural. They come off believably as guys who grew up around each other and then followed different paths after high school. Theres an easy-flowing banter between the three, and we know these guys can handle physical comedy so thats never an issue.
As far as the comedy goes, unfortunately, most of the best stuff is in the trailer. Director Steven Brill honed his comedy skills directing Adam Sandler movies (Little Nicky and Mr. Deeds) and that Sandler movie tone is pervasive in Without a Paddle. When the jokes work, Without a Paddle is hysterical, but when they dont, its a real drag. And like most Sandler films, the comedy is tempered with heart, life lessons, some drama, and a bit of romance.
Without a Paddle is a goofball comedy that strives to one-up itself scene after scene by creating ever more improbable circumstances as the film goes on. It doesnt make much sense, but its not really a film youre supposed to analyze so the fact these guys are where they are, doing what theyre doing, doesnt matter all that much. Weve seen this kind of humor done before, and in most cases, done better. But if youre into teenaged boy-type humor, then Without a Paddle will work for you. If not, then youll be sorry, its just too easy but I cant keep myself from doing it up a creek Without a Paddle.
"Without a Paddle" was directed by Steven Brill and is rated PG-13 for drug content, sexual material, language, crude humor and some violence.