Albert Brooks' 1996 "Mother" took the idea of a well-meaning, overbearing matriarch to places of squirm-inducing embarrassment and insight, leaving plenty of room for a lighter, more sitcomy version of the story about a man spending concentrated time with his mom. As the umbilically bound twosome in director Anne Fletcher's effort, stars and executive producers Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand share a believable family connection -- Babs is actually so adorable you want to hug her, if only to shut her up. Yet, despite some funny offhand moments, "The Guilt Trip" doesn't jell. I almost feel guilty for saying that.
Biochemist Andy Brewster (Rogen) has spent three years perfecting an all-natural, "scientific" cleaning product he has maladroitly dubbed Scieoclean. The clunky name says exactly how Andy sees the world. Utterly convinced of his irrefutable reason and logic, he's equally misguided about his long-widowed mother's singlehood -- and certain that a surprise reunion with the lost love of her youth will complete her life's equation.
Believing he's found the man -- an advertising executive in San Francisco -- Andy impulsively invites mom Joyce (Streisand) along with him on a scheduled road trip to visit the headquarters of retailers like Kmart and Costco, where he has appointments to pitch his product. Setting out from New Jersey, the familial odd couple treks to Virginia, Tennessee, Texas and Las Vegas, as strained patience gives way to ugly comments give way to ... well, you don't need a GPS to see where this trip's going.
Screenwriter Dan Fogelman ("Crazy Stupid Love") based the film on a real-life cross-country drive to Vegas with his own mom, also named Joyce. But you get the feeling, including from the end-credit outtakes, that some of the best lines came spontaneously from Rogen's well-known talent for improvisation. That leaves a plot structure in which the inevitable hard-truths scene feels early and unearned. And incidents from Fogelman's real-life trip diary might have been more interesting in real life.
PLOT A man and his meddling mom take a cross-country road trip.
CAST Seth Rogen, Barbra Streisand
PLAYING AT Area theaters
BOTTOM LINE Rogen and Streisand have their moments, but not a movie's worth.