out of Five
Running time: 95
Stand By Me meets Deliverance, but not in a good way – this remains watchable thanks to its cast, but it’s never quite as funny or as engaging as it thinks it is.
Without A Paddle is the sort of film for which you can easily imagine the pitch being made to the Hollywood Suits – in this case: “It’s Deliverance meets Stand By Me! With added poo jokes!” Unfortunately, it’s also the sort of film where all the best jokes (both of them) are in the trailer.
Not Enough Decent Gags
Dan (Seth Green), Jerry (Matthew Lillard) and Tom (Dax Shepard) are three childhood friends reunited by the funeral of the adventure-loving fourth member of their gang (Anthony Starr). As a tribute, they decide to take the trip they had always planned, in search of a lost stash of cash in the mountains. So they rent a canoe and head downriver to what might as well be called Deliverance County, USA (a joke so obvious it’s a surprise they missed it).
Along the way they encounter a mobile phone-eating bear (enterprisingly stolen from Peter Pan’s ticking crocodile), a couple of pot-farming, trigger-happy rednecks (Ethan Suplee and Abraham Benrubi), a pair of tree-dwelling hippy chicks (Rachel Blanchard, from TV’s Peep Show and Christina Moore) and, the piece de resistance (and probably the clincher for the movie getting made in the first place), Burt Reynolds as a grizzly bearded mountain man.
Sadly, there simply aren’t enough decent gags in the film for it to really work as a comedy – for example, its central comic set-piece involves the main characters flinging bags of human excrement at the rednecks.
It also seems to feel that Burt Reynolds as the mountain man is a big enough joke for us to be impressed (“He was in Deliverance, geddit?”). There is, however, one laugh-out-loud gag, that somehow manages to be homo-erotic while playing on homosexual panic: when the three (by this time semi-naked) guys are forced to huddle together to keep warm and Jerry can’t resist teasing Dan into a state of excitement.
Tries To Be Too Many Films
The main problem is that the film is trying to be three different things at once: a Stand By Me-inspired tale of friendship, with a message about both growing up and taking the chances that life gives you, a gross-out comedy and a Deliverance-style thriller/parody.
In doing so, it fails on all three counts, not least because it never delivers on the one joke everyone expects from a spoof of Deliverance (although you strongly suspect one was cut from the script at the early stages).
That said, the three leads are appealing enough so that the film remains watchable and the whole thing is almost worth seeing just for Seth Green’s C-3PO impressions. However, it’s probably worth waiting for the rental. In the meantime, rent a double bill of Stand By Me and Deliverance instead.