|Without a Paddle (2004)
Starring: Seth Green, Matthew Lillard, Dax Shepard, Burt Reynolds
Director: Steven Brill
Watching director Steven Brill’s new comedy without the sweet, finger-plucking sounds of “Dueling Banjos” in the background just doesn’t feel complete. In fact, the producers of “Without a Paddle” managed to fulfill nearly every homage to “Deliverance” – including a cameo by Burt Reynolds – except for the heart-racing jungle tune. Don’t start comparing the two films so quickly, though, because “Without a Paddle” just isn’t up to par, censoring a group of talented young actors in place of a weak, been-there-done-that buddy flick that fails as an enjoyable visit to the movies.
Ten years after graduating and parting ways, three childhood friends (Seth Green, Matthew Lillard and Dax Shepard) are brought back home for the funeral of their fourth pal, Billy, when they discover that he planned out a journey to uncover legendary airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper’s $200,000 loot deep in the woods of Oregon. Collectively agreeing that they owe it to their dead pal to embark on the treasure hunt they’ve been plotting since they were kids, the three guys rent a canoe, pack their camping gear and set off deep into the woods. After rowing their way over a waterfall and into the wrong direction, they hike through the hellish wilderness and run into a pair of gun-totting marijuana farmers who’d like nothing more than to shoot them dead.
Juggling the story between a slapstick comedy and a coming-of-age drama, the script for “Without a Paddle” is more lost than the characters themselves. The three actors propel the film as far as they can, but without any solid jokes it just floats in a canoe of mediocrity. Green is by far the best of the pack, enduring much of the comedic load the whole way through, but screen newbie Shepard also contributes in a few scenes.
A comedic field trip through the dangerous Oregon woods, “Without a Paddle” has small spurts of funny moments between the three friends, but ultimately falls short of its potential as a popcorn movie with a dull script lost in the idea of recreating the classic jungle thriller for a younger generation. See it if you must, but don’t expect to get any bang for your buck; the best you can hope for is the snap of a twig.