In "The Guilt Trip," which features Barbra Streisand's first starring performance in more than 15 years, the definitive diva plays a lighthearted version of a stereotypical Jewish mother, eating candy in bed and endlessly doting on her only son, played by Seth Rogen.
He is an aspiring inventor who has lined up a series of meetings across the country to try to sell his nontoxic household cleaner to box stores and other major retailers. Circumstance and a little affectionate subterfuge on his part lead him to invite her along.
Screenwriter Dan Fogelman's script for last year's "Crazy Stupid Love" ably pulled together a comedy of contemporary living with only-in-the-movies exaggerations, yet here he achieves no such balance: "The Guilt Trip" has little basis in reality — cultural, familial or otherwise. There is something promising about the match-up of an old-school show-biz kid like Streisand with the modern, anxiously self-aware Rogen, but what could have been the multigenerational Thunderdome of Jewish Humor instead turns out bloodlessly disappointing.
It's hard to believe that Streisand came back to a leading role after supporting parts in the last two "Fockers" movies so that she could participate in an agonizingly long and unfunny scene in which her character powers through a 50-ounce steak dinner so she can get it for free. (Because, you know, she loves a bargain, etc.) A late story twist exists only to give Streisand a chance to go momentarily self-serious and verklempt.