Reviewed by
Colin Jacobson

Title: Road Trip: Unrated (2000)
Studio Line: DreamWorks - The greatest college tradition of all time.

Road Trip stars some of today's hottest young talent, including MTV's hip comedian, Tom Green, Sean William Scott (American Pie), Breckin Meyer (The Craft, Can't Hardly Wait) and Amy Smart (Varsity Blues). Green brings his outrageous brand of humor to this raucous tale of four college buddies who party hardy on a Road Trip.

Josh (Breckin Meyer) has a major problem - besides the fact he's in college in Ithaca, NY, and his longtime girlfriend Tiffany is in Austin, TX. A video of him getting funky with the luscious Beth (Amy Smart) was mistakenly mailed to Tiffany and now he has three days to get to Texas before the tape does!

Director: Todd Phillips
Cast: Breckin Meyer, Sean William Scott, DJ Qualls, Paolo Costanzo, Tom Green, Amy Smart, Rachel Blanchard, Fred Ward, Anthony Rapp
Box Office: Budget: $15.6 million. Opening Weekend: $15.484 million (2530 screens). Gross: $68.525 million.
DVD: Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9; audio English DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround 2.0; subtitles English; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 24 chapters; Not Rated; 95 min.; $26.99; street date 12/19/00.
Supplements: "Road Trip Video" Featurette; Deleted Scenes; eels Music Video; Two Trailers; Production Notes; Cast and Crew Biographies; DVD-ROM Materials.
Purchase: DVD | Music soundtrack - Various Artists

Picture/Sound/Extras: B+/B+/C

In the summer of 1999, American Pie appeared out of nowhere and became a sleeper hit. Unsurprisingly, imitators have appeared since that time. Actually, AP was a fairly derivative movie on its own, so I guess that makes its clones copies of copies.

I can’t comment on the quality of all the other wannabes, but I know this: at least one of them - Road Trip - completely bites. The movie features all of the expected smarmy gross-out and sex humor but completely lacks any sense of fun or charm.

Road Trip follows Josh (Breckin Meyer), a nice college student who’s hopelessly devoted to his long-time girlfriend Tiffany (Rachel Blanchard) even through the stresses of their long-distance relationship; he goes to school in New York, she’s in Texas, and when sexy Beth (Amy Smart) tries to heat up their friendship, the miles make him weak.

As such, he and Beth get it on and actually videotape the experience. By accident, this tape gets mailed to Tiffany. To intercept it before she gets it, Josh hits the road with buddies E.L. (Seann William Scott), Rubin (Paulo Costanza) and Kyle (DJ Edwards). Of course, they encounter all sorts of obstacles along they way.

The film wants us to find the boys’ exploits funny and delightful, but that was never the case. I didn’t laugh once during this clunker. In fact, I don’t think I ever even cracked a smile as I watched its heavy-handed and inane gags. I’m not opposed to this kind of juvenile humor, but it has to be handled with more creativity and wit than we find here. American Pie worked well, as it was fairly inventive and charming, but both qualities are in short supply during RT.

Actually, the lack of endearing characters hurts RT as much as its failure to present amusing material. The participants in AP were generally likable and winning, but I didn’t feel any affection for or interest in any of the RT crew. Josh is just a cipher; he’s such a dull person that I spent most of the movie concentrating on how much Meyer is starting to look like Bill Maher. Scott proved funny as Stifler in AP, but although E.L. is virtually an identical character, Scott didn’t seem nearly as engaging here. That’s because Stifler was the exception to the rule in AP, and his shtick had normal characters off of whom he could bounce. Here he gets too much screen time for such an annoying person and he grated upon me quickly.

RT received a lot of attention since it featured gross-out comic Tom Green’s first major film role. Frankly, Green doesn’t do it for me. As such, I suppose it’s an indication of how witless a movie this was since Green was easily the funniest part of it. No, his bits weren’t truly amusing, but they sure looked like comic gold when compared to the rest of the dreck.

Road Trip isn’t the worst teen comedy I’ve seen. In fact, it’s not even close to being that bad; there’re some genuinely atrocious movies out there. Nonetheless, it’s a weak attempt to succeed along the same lines as films like American Pie that left me completely cold. Road Trip is an unfunny and charmless dud.

The DVD:

Road Trip appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although it possesses a few concerns, for the most part I thought the movie looked very good.

Sharpness seemed excellent throughout the film. I detected virtually no instances of soft or hazy images; the picture appeared nicely crisp and well-defined. Moiré effects popped up a few times - mainly due to some checked clothes and sides of brick buildings - but jagged edges presented no concerns. The anamorphic downconversion on my 4X3 TV produced some mild artifacts. Although print flaws seemed fairly minor, I thought they were much more prevalent than I’d expect for a brand-new movie. I saw light but consistent grain during much of the film, and I also witnessed occasional speckles and grit. Again, these were largely insubstantial but they nonetheless appeared awfully heavy for a modern movie.

Colors looked nicely accurate and vibrant. During a party scene, I thought the red lighting came across as slightly thick, but as a whole, hues seemed clear and distinct with no problems. Black levels appeared solid and deep, and shadow detail was excellent; low-light situations looked appropriately heavy but not excessively dark. Remove the grain and other print flaws an this is an “A”-level image; it appeared terrific except for the minor defects.

Also quite strong are the soundtracks of Road Trip. The DVD presents both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. Usually I prefer one to the other, but that wasn’t the case here; I thought that the two soundtracks came across as virtually identical and I couldn’t discern any advantages to either of them.

As such, my comments will apply equally to both soundtracks. The soundfield stayed fairly strongly toward the front spectrum and displayed pretty solid imaging. Music offered good stereo separation, and various effects appeared appropriately placed within the forward range. The rears largely contributed reinforcement via ambiance (such as at parties or in classes) or music; a few scenes - like when a car explodes - expanded the dimensionality nicely, but these were exceptions. It’s an unexciting mix but it fits the material well.

Audio quality seemed fine. Dialogue appeared natural and crisp and displayed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects were clean and realistic and offered no distortion or flaws. Music sounded clear and bright and reproduced the original songs accurately. The track showed positive dynamic range; the bass seemed tight and rich, and highs were distinct and bright. All in all, the audio worked perfectly well for the film.

Road Trip doesn’t pack in a ton of supplements, but it includes a few decent extras. First of all, the movie itself is the “unrated” version which adds some allegedly-hot material. Since I never saw the film during its theatrical run, I can’t specifically comment on the changes, but there’s a fair amount of full-frontal female nudity in one scene; I’d be surprised if this footage wasn’t at least part of the new stuff. It appears that we get one or two minutes of extra shots.

In the “Deleted Scenes”, we find eight different unused pieces. These total about 10 minutes and 50 seconds of material. Why the shots didn’t make the cut is a mystery; they’re no better or worse than the footage included in the final film. In any case, I didn’t care for the scenes, but fans of the movie should certainly enjoy them.

Another video piece appears as well. A “Road Trip Video With Tom Green” lasts four minutes and 55 seconds and provides a quick overview of the film. Green performs a few moderately-amusing interview snippets, but otherwise this is a pretty traditional featurette; it mixed sound bites, movie clips and shots from the set. It’s watchable but nothing spectacular.

“Cast and Crew” provides short but decent biographies for nine actors plus 11 crew members. DreamWorks don’t offer the best biographies, but they sure include the greatest amount of coverage!

We find a music video for eels’ “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues”. Though the clip technically follows the usual lip-synch/film snippet combination, the latter only make up a minor portion of the video, and the former are more creative than usual. It looks like the video was shot on the set, and most of the cast appears in it. I didn’t think it was a terrific piece, but it was generally entertaining and was definitely above-average.

We also get two theatrical trailers - one of which is “R”-rated and features nudity, something you don’t see too frequently - and “Production Notes”. The latter provide some pretty solid text details about the film’s creation. Note that the notes inside the DVD’s booklet completely duplicate the ones on the disc itself. Actually, they’re more readable in the booklet; the text on the disc omits indentation and can be tougher to decode sensibly.

Road Trip also provides a few DVD-ROM features. We get a “Trivia Game” that was moderately fun. One frustration: when you finish it, there appears to be a “reward” that should pop up, but the game always crashed on my computer. We also find a Road Trip “Screen Saver” plus a link to an on-line DreamWorks site. The latter didn’t work for me, but it may not be activated until the DVD’s release date of December 19 2000; since I’m writing this a few days in advance, I’ll have to recheck it later.

If I do so, it’s out of journalistic responsibility, not because I want to learn more about Road Trip. I thought the movie was a stupid and unfunny rip-off of other teen comedies, and it added nothing new or compelling to the genre. The DVD provides solid picture and sound plus some minor extras. Fans of the movie may like this DVD, but others should stick with American Pie or some other funnier film.

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