15 July 2011


Twelve Things about Without a Paddle

12. The title is awkward enough for me to guess that Up the Creek was already taken--and now that I've seen the earlier movie's trailer, I wonder whether it had any significant influence on this one.

11. I really, really like this movie. It's so gosh-darn likeable: one of the few "low-brow" flicks I will always stop to watch, should I happen to channel surf into it when I have a couple of hours to kill.

The others, you ask?
The only one that comes to mind right now is
the remake of The Parent Trap.

10. And now for another totally subjective movie connection. There's something about Without a Paddle that makes me think: "Goonies with grown-ups!" (What, Stilwell? Are you going to disown me again?) And in the hands of a different producer, this movie would probably make a legitimate double-bill partner for Richard Donner's greatest movie. (Thank you for that, Steven Spielberg.)

9. One last bit before I get to the meat of this movie . . . Why do I have the feeling that I'll appreciate the humour so much more after I get around to watching Deliverance?

8. Moving forward, a word about the actors . . .

So what if they're not big stars?They're freaking funny, mate!

Seth Green is just hilarious as Dan, an MD with a successful practice and a whole set of silly insecurities to go with it. He is at once the shortest and the most successful of these childhood friends. (Anyone know whether that dichotomy was in the script before Green was even cast?) Having seen his other work--as well as interviews--I don't really buy him in this prim and proper role at all . . . but he's still totally steals the show.

7. Which is why Matthew Lillard and Dax Shepard have to share a number. =P

Lillard plays the "straight" hero--or as Hollywood would say, the "leading man." He's a comic, too, but his role doesn't require him to be especially funny. Although moderately successful, he's not very happy with his job and isn't quite ready to propose to his long-term girlfriend, who has all but given him an ultimatum.

And then there is Shepard, who gets to be the big, blustery, dumb guy you'd never put up with if you didn't have all that shared boyhood history. He's not really a jerk, but he requires a lot of patience. The script provides for a backstory and some depth, but I don't think Shepard "wears" his character as well as Green and Lillard do theirs.

6. Not pictured is their friend Billy, whose early death gave them a reason to take this much-needed camping trip. You don't expect the sobering fact of death in a "Bromantic Comedy", but it certainly helps give this flick some emotional depth.

5. Ah, the Bromance! Whenever I watch this, I feel like I shouldn't be. The characters were cracking the kind of jokes I only hear from men when they think women aren't listening--and opening their hearts to each other in a way I imagine they do only when they know no woman is around. Yes, the language has been "cleaned up" for ratings and such, but the spirit remains the same.

4. But there are girls here, too! And I don't just mean the frustrated girlfriend Lillard's character leaves at home . . . or the pretty secretary Green's character can't bring himself to ask out to dinner.

Who cares that they're dirty hippies, right?

I can't remember which of the cast members said in an interview, regarding the scene when the three friends run into two beautiful women with even fewer inhibitions than items of clothing, "You can tell that men wrote this script." I bring it up anyway because it's an excellent critical assessment.

Now, real women who live in ancient redwoods probably don't look or act anything like Flower and Butterfly. But to suggest that they might is a cute, harmless, funny (man's) fantasy that, impressively, also moves the plot forward.

3. And I must say: I really like the plot. It clearly strives to balance the ridiculous and the heartfelt--which you don't usually see in unambitious comedies like this one supposedly is. Okay, there are lots of easy shortcuts through exposition. I'm not complaining! And although, yes, a lot of the stuff that happens is simply implausible, there is also the sense that the story couldn't have done without any of it. Even the bear.

To the writers: an A for really good effort!

2. But back to that frustrated girlfriend I mentioned, who reminds me of an offline friend of mine. The last time we caught up over coffee, she mentioned how unfair it is that a woman who is in love will miss her man all the time they aren't together, while a man who is in love can focus on his work and not think about his woman when he doesn't have to. Now, my friend gets most of her musings on relationships from Sex and the City, but I think she'd get more insight into a man's mind from watching something like this movie.

So the girlfriend isn't very happy with Lillard's character: although they've moved in together, their relationship appears to be coasting, and he doesn't seem to want to grow up. She's not too happy about the impulsive camping trip he decides to take with his friends, either. And I'll just bet that while he's gone, she (like my friend) thinks about him all the time, while he (like whomever my friend had in mind during our conversation) keeps his undivided focus on whatever task is at hand. (Something else you can bet is that there are many tasks at hand!) While that may be "unfair," however, it does not mean he doesn't truly love her.

It was honestly impossible for him to call her for about forty-eight hours, but the second he found a working phone, he didn't think twice about digging it out of the steaming pile of BEAR SHIT it was buried under, just so he could finally give her a call. Which means something, you know?

I really should make my friend watch this because the way the call plays out is classic Relationship Dramedy.

1. Finally . . . the soundtrack editing wasn't so good, but I love the feel-good music.

See how I resisted the temptation to embed some Culture Club? =P
Seriously, though, Do You Really Want to Hurt Me
actually plays a part in the plot.
(Yeah, really.)

Image Sources: a) Without a Paddle poster, b) Without a Paddle cast, c) Flower and Butterfly


Nikki-ann said...

It's been a while since I've seen this film, but I'd watch it again if it was on while I'm channel surfing.

Enbrethiliel said...


I already do the channel surfing thing, but I think I'd go as far as to buy a DVD copy (impulsively!) if I ever run into it while browsing in the video store!

Paul Stilwell said...

Though I have not seen "Without a Paddle", I must listen to reason and concede that if and when The Goonies Sequel gets made (God-willing), it will have the same cast as they are now - as grown-ups. How would I object to that (granted the film were made by Donner)?

By the way, can you imagine how much The Goonies would have sucked if it was directed by Spielberg? Oh, blasphemy!

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, man! When that sequel to The Goonies does finally come out, I will be in heaven . . . assuming, of course, that all the original children (now adults) come back. I know that lots of fans are conservative about sequels to their favourite films, but I have a good feeling about this possibility. There's some pretty decent writing coming out of Hollywood these days. I think that if they stay humble and find a good script (or make up for a so-so script with some excellent production values), they'll have a worthy movie for us fans. =)

And now that I've patted Spielberg on one cheek, it's time to smack him on the other one . . . You're so right, Stilwell: The Goonies would have sucked like twenty Hoovers and a Dyson if producer Spielberg had decided he wanted to direct it, too.

Syrin said...

Your friend doesn't seem to know the difference between love and infatuation. I bet she's a Twilight fan too. :P

I love Seth Green in almost everything I've ever seen him in, but somehow this one slipped passed me because I don't remember it at all.

Enbrethiliel said...


LOL! She's not a Twilight fan at least. ;-) But now I'm starting to wonder which franchise will make us pay more dearly: Sex and the City or Twilight. And why do I have the feeling that the sparkly vampires are the lesser evil? =P

Anyway, Syrin, you've got to see Without a Paddle! It's no masterpiece, but it's got excellent entertainment value. (And there's so much stuff that happened that I wasn't able to cover in this "review"--so you'll still get some surprises!) Seth Green is always wonderful, and everyone in the cast gets at least one really funny moment. Moreover, I didn't truly respect Matthew Lillard until I saw what he was able to do with his character Jerry. I'd totally recommend this to anyone who needs something fun to watch for two hours or so! =D

Kate said...

"And now that I've patted Spielberg on one cheek, it's time to smack him on the other one"

Can I steal that phrase, subbing in whoever I need for Spielberg?

I've also never managed to catch this film, I think I had a bad feeling about it when it came out and promptly never thought about it again. Your glowing assessment makes me rethink this...

Also, yes, sad and strange to think how much "damage" both SATC and Twilight have done for us?

Enbrethiliel said...


Go ahead and borrow it! It does give new meaning to turning the other cheek, aye? ;-)

Without a Paddle definitely brings out my movie buff glow--but I hesitate to recommend it (as I hesitate to recommend most things) because I don't know if what I find so appealing about it will be apparent to everyone else. I will insist, though, that it is charming, likeable and sweet. (And even if you don't agree, how can we go wrong with Seth Green???) If this movie were a man and he asked me out to dinner, I'd say yes!

PS -- If you're here for Locus Focus, I promise I'll have something up tomorrow!

Shaz said...

Haven't seen this film, but I thought I'd say hi anyway. :-)

Enbrethiliel said...


Hi, Shaz! =P

The Mike said...

Never been a big fan of this one. It has moments - Sheppard's joke at the expense of awful band Creed makes me chuckle - and Burt Reynolds is ALWAYS welcome in Mikeland, but it's just one of those movies that didn't really make me laugh as much as I wanted to. I like Green a lot, too - The Italian Job remake is honestly one of my favorite movies of the last decade - but he seemed a little off here to me. Maybe I like him more when he's acting childish all the time?

And yes - DELIVERANCE is a must must must see. It hasn't aged perfectly, but it's still just impossible to look away from.

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, gosh. I think I'd watch anything Seth Green was in. =P But I agree with you that he doesn't really sell his character in this one. He's still really funny (at least, he's funny to me! =P), but something does seem really off. There's only a little of that sparkle he has elsewhere. On the other hand, I can't imagine anyone else in the part.

And I'm totally going to see Deliverance when I get the chance. It comes highly recommended by many people I respect--among whose ranks I'm pleased to say you number. =)

Kate said...

Actually I'm just here to read your blog :) I've got nothing for the Locus Focus this week, I'm sorry to say.

Enbrethiliel said...


That's all right. I needed the pressure from that post I imagined you had. ;-)

And thanks a lot for reading! I do appreciate it.