Here’s the not totally unpromising premise: Josh (Brecklin Meyer), a college student in Ithaca, N.Y., is having his first protracted separation from his longtime sweetheart, Tiffany (Rachel Blanchard). The relationship seems to have hit a damp spot as Tiffany, who is matriculating in far-off Austin, Texas, hasn’t been returning Josh’s calls. So, in a moment of combined weakness, need and opportunity, Josh boinks the willing Beth (Amy Smart), who insists on videotaping the whole thing. Since Josh is in the habit of sending Tiffany tapes full of his moony proclamations of love, it’s inevitable that the Beth sex tape gets sent to her by mistake.
Ok, so now Josh has to zip down to Austin and intercept the tape and get back to Ithaca in time for final exams, which gives him, maybe, three days (I wasn’t taking notes). Josh is a stereotypical average guy and he’s accompanied on his road trip by three other recognizable types: E.L. (Seann William Scott), who is the party animal and who looks like Jim Carrey’s younger, slightly less-possessed brother; Rubin (Paulo Costanzo) who’s the "smart one" which, in this genre, means "vaguely Jewish"; and Kyle (DJ Qualls), the virgin nerd whose main function in the movie is to lose his cherry, which he does rather spectacularly.
Road Trip is the kind of teen-oriented toss-off which is usually good for a few sniggers, but which, in the wake of There’s Something About Mary (admittedly aimed at a slightly wider demographic) and American Pie, seems woefully behind the curve. It shows a knack for a solid comic setup but without any follow-through. E.L stealing a bus from a school for the blind and the quartet having to spend the night in an all-black fraternity house are two typically under-exploited situations. It’s as though the movie wanted to be vulgar but not offensive, prankish but with a basically sweet subtext.
The movie has the framing device of being a story told by a campus tour guide played by MTV’s Tom Green, whose usual schtick of alternating annoyingly aggressive stupidity with bouts of infantile rage is toned down a bit for the film. It fits with the overall mood of anarchism-lite, of half-hearted transgressions which make youthful exuberance seem a little dull.
Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for Metro Times. E-mail him at [email protected].