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'Road Trip': A Detour En Route to Adulthood

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 19, 2000


    'Road Trip' On the road to Austin. (DreamWorks)
"Road Trip" does for French toast what "American Pie" did for our national dessert: It satisfies your appetite for totally tasteless but deliciously flaky boy movies . . . and forever changes your eating habits. The next time you want something French for breakfast, you can bet it will be an omelet.

Along with the abuse of toast, this gag-rich and energetically acted romp finds comic kindling in sperm donations, toe-sucking (not that there's anything wrong with that) and mouse-taunting (none of the squeakers was harmed in the making of this film, we are assured). On the other hand, there's not a single potty joke. But needless to say, if you don't get a rise out of lowbrow comedy, stay far, far away from this crass silliness.

Documentary filmmaker Todd Phillips ("Frat House") makes his feature debut with this tale of four collegians who act without thinking, get into all kinds of predicaments and, as is the case in most silver-screen escapes, overcome the roadblocks that have stymied their emotional growth or the quality of their sex lives.

Josh (Breckin Meyer in "Go"), a student at New York's Ithaca College, initiates the trip when his roommates send the wrong videotape to his steady girlfriend, Tiffany (Rachel Blanchard), a coed at the University of Austin. Instead of protestations of his love, the tape features a sizzling encounter with Beth (Amy Smart), an Ithaca student who turned on Josh's video camera before seducing him.

Desperate to retrieve the tape before Tiffany sees it, Josh races the U.S. Postal Service from New York to Texas with his friends E.L. ("American Pie's" Seann William Scott), a prancing party animal; Rubin (Paulo Costanzo), a wry, cerebral doper; and Kyle (DJ Qualls), a timid geek who is invited to go along because the others are, after all, commandeering his father's car.

Along the way, they manage to total the car, lose most of their money and max out Kyle's father's credit card. With a little larceny, a lot of imagination and plenty of laughs, the four complete their problem-plagued 1,800-mile journey. Highlights include a pit stop at an African American fraternity house--Rubin knows the complicated handshake and the four pose as members--where they are given a warm welcome because the real brothers admire the chutzpah of these dopes.

Kyle, who feels wholeheartedly accepted for the first time ever, is transformed by the experience. He not only gets his groove on, but also catches the eye and the fancy of a pretty plus-size coed (Mia Amber Davis), who takes his virginity and then sends him away with a pair of her fake-leopard-skin undies and a newfound sense of self-esteem.

E.L., a cocksure ladies' man, also gets what he needs: a kinky comeuppance when he foolishly asks a fed-up sperm bank nurse for a helping hand. Actually, it works out okay in the end, for after the rather extreme procedure, E.L. declares, "That was . . . awesome." And the guys leave the bank with an infusion of much-needed cash.

The picture's female characters--none of them cheerleaders, thank heavens--invariably control the intimate encounters, much as they did in "American Pie." That's not to say that the movie has been scoured of sexism. Why, for instance, are Beth and another coed auctioned off at a crowded kegger? To pay for the beer? More likely, the filmmakers couldn't think of a better way to throw Josh and Beth together.

The movie, a little too loosely structured, sometimes wanders off and gets lost like a child in a department store. In one case, it's to give Beth something to do while Josh is on the road. In another, it's to give voice to the loopy sensibilities of Barry (MTV's Tom Green), the amusingly perverse roommate who stays behind to feed Rubin's pet snake and serve as a campus tour guide for prospective students and their parents.

When one visitor perceives a lack of camaraderie at Ithaca U, Barry sits the tour group down on some bleachers and tells about his buddies' rollicking adventures. But the high-schoolers repeatedly interrupt the story to complain about his embellishments.

"Girls don't go around topless all the time," gripes one young woman of Barry's description of a hen party in the women's dorm.

"It's my story," snaps Barry. And in Barry's story, the wardrobe was inspired by National Geographic.

In the 19 years separating "Porky's" from this "Pie" a la mode, young women may have become less virginal and victimized. But no matter the decade, it seems, the yearnings of young men never change.

ROAD TRIP (91 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for nudity, sexuality and profanity.


© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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