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'Road' Rave

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 18, 2000


    'Road Trip' On the road to Austin. (DreamWorks)
NOTE TO READERS: In order to enjoy "Road Trip" and write an appreciative review, it was necessary to shut down all intellectual circuitry in my brain, including those mental microchips that govern civic responsibility, artistic taste and a human being's basic sense of shame. People who look to these pages for more considered, mature insight are strongly urged to bypass this endorsement of juvenile crudity.

So, I Gotta tell ya: "Road Trip' is pretty [expletive] funny.

Tom Green holding a white mouse in the air, then lowering it into his mouth is just one of the tasty attractions in this summer comedy.

Green, in case you don't watch his MTV show, is a shameless man who regularly torments his parents on the air, badgers unsuspecting passersby with street-guerrilla pranks and induces shrieks of disbelief from his studio audience. A role model for the ages!

But there's so much more to "Road Trip" than demented Tom Green. I'm talking cheap visual gags, painfully embarrassing moments and other sophomoric humor guaranteed to get you and your friends almost vomiting with laughter.

It's crude, this movie. Would those dreary, hypocritical Baby Boomers you call Mom and Dad roll their eyes at this stuff? You betcha! Hey, would I be wasting your time if this movie wasn't low? How low? Get out there and practice your limbo stance right now. It's down there.

Green is actually the narrator in this comedy, a bizarre student named Barry, who has been going to Ithaca College for eight years. (Shades of Bluto in "Animal House.") Now he's a tour guide, telling prospective students what little he knows about the campus.

When he's challenged once too often on his lack of knowledge, he lapses into an excellent story, a campus anecdote about a certain hilarious road trip, which may or may not be true. I mean, look who's telling the story.

When a nice guy called Josh (Breckin Meyer) comes to Ithaca, it's his first separation from his longtime girlfriend, Tiffany (Rachel Blanchard). She's 1,800 miles away, a freshman at the University of Austin.

Josh is lonely. He calls constantly. Only, she's not returning calls. Has she dumped him? Josh assembles a missin'-ya videotape of himself to send her.

Meanwhile, a hot number called Beth (Amy Smart) makes herself available to Josh. After the umpteenth failed attempt to reach Tiffany, Josh figures his romance is over.

He's only human. And he gives in to Beth. She's nice but also naughty. She videotapes everything. As you might guess, the wrong videotape goes out in the mail. And Josh discovers this saucy tape is heading to Austin right after Tiffany calls him back to say she's sorry she didn't return his calls, but there was a death in the family and – aaarrggh!!!

"That's not fair," says Josh's sympathetic best friend, E.L. (Seann William Scott from "American Pie"). "How come she gets to see the tape and we don't?"

Josh, who's too cash-poor to get a flight, decides to drive to Austin and intercept the package. E.L. and another pal named Rubin (Paulo Costanzo) go along for the ride. Trouble is, they have nothing to ride in. So they bully a nerd named Kyle (DJ Qualls) into giving up his car (his fearsome dad's) and credit card (also property of Dad . . . played by Fred Ward) to make this trip possible.

What happens along the way, that's the fun. And then there's the fun that happens back at Ithaca, where Barry (that's Green, remember) has been charged with looking after Rubin's pet constrictor.

Barry yearns desperately for Saturday morning when he can feed the mouse to the snake. But when the snake doesn't eat, Barry feels that he needs to, uh, encourage the reptile.

I'll go easy on giving away the gags. But Kyle makes a sexual suggestion involving peanut butter and housepets that will bring the house down. And in the show-stopper of the movie, the gang makes a hilarious attempt to make their car leap over a missing bridge by flooring the gas pedal and – well, you can see what happens for yourself.

"Road Trip" is the brainchild of producer Ivan Reitman, who made the classic college rite of passage, "Animal House." Enlisting co-writer-director Todd Phillips, whose documentary "Frat House" won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, Reitman has created the perfect package for the latest college and pre-college generation. "Road Trip" may not have the all-time-classic status of "Animal House," but it's frequently as funny. And as E.L., Scott (who could be Jim Carrey's younger brother) gets my vote as the funniest student of the lot. (Tom Green's a scream, but I'm not sure if he's funny or just certifiable.) Although I checked my brain at the theater door, I remember enough to know this: Watching this with a big audience should be a riot.

ROAD TRIP (R, 91 minutes) – Contains, like, everything.


© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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