- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 19, 2004

The lifelong chums in “Without a Paddle” aren’t old enough to suffer a midlife crisis, but being in your late 20s conceals its own emotional pitfalls.

So the friends do what anyone else in the same boat, or canoe, might do. They go on a treasure hunt. The notion is as preposterous as the rest of this recycled buddy comedy, but dang if the three leads don’t make this convoluted journey a loopy lark.

“Without a Paddle” owes a cosmic debt to 1985’s “The Goonies,” another ramshackle affair filled with death-defying feats. Here, the leads are a bit older, but their friendship is rooted in shared childhood memories that suffuse the film with a mood of sincere nostalgia.

“Paddle” introduces us to four friends who grew up together, then drifted apart after high school. The death of Billy, the thrill seeker of the bunch, brings them back home for the funeral.

Digging through their old treehouse, Tom (Dax Shepard), Jerry (Matthew Lillard) and Dan (Seth Green) uncover the expected trinkets, such as a C-3PO action figure and an Indiana Jones compass. They also learn that Billy visited the treehouse as recently as last year and left behind a map pointing to the loot swiped by D.B. Cooper, long-lost skyjacker.

We told you this was a preposterous undertaking.

Putting their adult lives — and responsibilities — on hold, the three set out for treasure as well as for some meaning in their lives. Sophomoric buddy films needn’t get so deep, but give “Paddle” props for trying.

The adventure sours when they nearly drown and anger two dimwitted pot farmers.

That’s not to mention the monstrous bear that nearly chomps poor Dan.

Cheap laughs abound in “Paddle,” and the film’s trifle of a story staggers when a pair of tree-hugging nymphets appear out of nowhere to comfort our heroes.

For every false note sounded by the itinerant script, however, along come the stars to crank up the good humor.

Mr. Green delivers another dryly modulated performance, the kind that tells you Hollywood doesn’t know quite what to do with the diminutive actor.

“Punk’d” co-star Mr. Shepard makes what should be a nail-on-the-chalkboard cad into someone sympathetic, while Mr. Lillard remains an avuncular presence.

A nearly unrecognizable Burt Reynolds appears late in the game as an old hermit. The former box-office titan tries acting for his first few minutes on screen, then throws up his hands when his storyline becomes too loony even for the “Cannonball Run” veteran.

Director Steven Brill, whose previous “accomplishments” include 2000’s “Little Nicky” and 2002’s “Mr. Deeds,” keeps all his plates spinning so furiously that you don’t mind when they eventually shatter.

And do they ever, exploding all over the screen during the frenzied finale.

Still, anyone feeling penned in by their adult lives or in need of some male bonding will grudgingly swim up “Paddle’s” stream.

**

WHAT: “Without a Paddle”

RATING: PG-13 (drug humor, violence, sexual situations and coarse language)

CREDITS: Directed by Steven Brill. Screenplay by Jay Leggett and Mitch Rouse. Cinematography by Jonathan Brown.

RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide