Anyway, Tom (Dax Shepard), Jerry (Matthew Lillard), and Dan (Seth Green) are lifelong pals and now screwups in their thirtysomethings. They're brought back together when their bestest friend in the whole world keels over, and that inspires 'em to fulfill a childhood dream: to track down the loot of skyjacker D.B. Cooper kneedeep in the forests of Oregon. They have a treasure map and everything! 'Course, the map doesn't say anything about oversized grizzlies, rednecks (Kube and Randy!) packing an arsenal that'd make Pablo Escobar's knees buckle, a shotgun-totin' mountain man (Burt Reynolds), a couple of sapphic tree nymphs, or...actually, it does say something about class 5 rapids, but that's a whole other thing anyway.
So...yeah. Without a Paddle hops back and forth between bug-eyed "oh nooooooooooooo!!!!-Kevin-Bacon-in-White Water Summer style adventure!, clumsy, heavy-handed serious scenes, and a swing-and-a-miss sense of humor. I'll give Without a Paddle a nod for at least aiming for something more than just paint-by-numbers comedy, but not all that much of it really works. The faux-weepy drama feels stapled on, and most of the comedy's sopping in flop sweat. I mean, the eighteen billionth spoof of Matrix bullet-time, a cute girl with freakishly hairy legs, poking fun at Creed (oooh, burn, 1999!), garden variety gay panic, a storm of shitbags...blah. There are a few clever ideas churned out in here -- spoofing 'nam war flicks as our three hero types are chased in a half-torched pot field or riffing on the speeder bike sequence from Return of the Jedi -- but it's...just not funny. The more action-oriented chunks are pretty decent, but if that's what you're looking for, you'll get more bang-and-other-stuff for your buck somewhere else. Skip It.
It kinda depends on the size of the TV you're staring at and how far away your couch is, really. Without a Paddle looks kind of erratic to me -- a bunch of shots are startlingly crisp and detailed, some are clearly HD but kind of fuzzy around the edges, and others still are unusually soft -- although that inconsistency would probably be tough to spot unless you have a set bigger than 50" in the middle of your home theater rig. On the upside, the scope image is pretty clean, I couldn't spot any hiccups in this high bitrate AVC encode, and Jonathan Brown's photography of the great outdoors is bright and eye-poppingly colorful. Overall...? Pretty good but not quite great.
Yikes. This is Creed Bratton-grade quality control: there are a couple of stretches in this 24-bit Dolby TrueHD track where its dialogue falls really far out of sync, leaving it looking less like a five year old studio comedy and more like Gamera's about to stomp all over Tokyo. You'd think someone would...y'know, watch the movie before however many tens of thousands of Blu-ray discs were churned out, but...guess not. Even if you shrug that off -- which you really shouldn't -- this isn't that great a track anyway. For a flick set almost entirely in the great outdoors, the surrounds are pretty lightweight. There's a light sense of atmosphere and some meager reinforcement of effects like redneck shootouts, the rush of the rapids, and ATVs zipping around, but they kinda come across like an afterthought. Even with all those sprays of gunfire and a couple of explosions, bass response really doesn't pack all that much of a wallop either. It's okay but doesn't have that extra punch I kinda hope to hear on Blu-ray. This lossless track is fairly bland all around, and letting the dialogue fall so far out of sync is pretty embarrassing.
Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs are served up in French and Spanish, and subtitles have been tacked on in English (traditional and SDH), French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
The Final Word
At least Without a Paddle tries to add up to more than just another run-o'-the-mill wacky frat-comedy, but its too-frequent stabs at sentimentality are really clunky, and...y'know, it's just not funny. I wouldn't recommend a Blu-ray disc with audio that falls this badly out of sync anyway, so I guess that's kind of a moot point. Skip It.
If you're feeling masochistic, DVD Talk also has Blu-ray reviews for Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling and the might-as-well-have-been-a-sequel Strange Wilderness.