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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Without a Paddle (Blu-ray)
Without a Paddle (Blu-ray)
Paramount // PG-13 // May 12, 2009 // Region A
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 5, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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Without a Paddle has Seth Green nibbling on a dead raccoon, there's a scene with a gaggle of sopping wet, half-nekkid guys snuggling together in a cave to some R. Kelly song (wait, am I supposed to say "jam"?), and three guys and a couple of tree nymphs play Poop Bombadiers to fend off some Deliverance types. Oh, but this is a movie with a message: make the most of the time you have! If you miss out on that the first time, don't fret: that quadruple-underlined moral will be bludgeoned into the back of your head over and over and over and over (actually, just three "over"s), stopping whatever passes for comedy dead in its tracks to make that heavy-handed point. That's the thing: Without a Paddle tries to be more than just another dicks-'n-doo-doo stoner comedy (although there's plenty of that too)...y'know, maybe 60% comedy, 30% outdoor adventure! flick, and 10% awkward, clunky drama. None of it really gels, tho'.

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.

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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.

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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.

  • Commentaries: There are two commentary tracks crammed onto Without a Paddle. Director Steven Brill tackles the first of 'em, and I really dug it. Brill is extremely thorough diving into the movie, and he's chatty, personable, and more than a little self-deprecatory about the whole thing too. Hey, and I learned a lot: New Zealand helicopters have amazing cell phone reception, bears can't lug people around like a groom on his wedding night, and if you wanna score some good foot gags for your tree nymphs, Amy Poehler's your go-to gal.

    Brill also turns up --
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    for a while, anyway -- in a picture-in-picture video commentary. The cast does most of the heavy lifting this time around, though. Dax Shepard, Seth Green, and Matthew Lillard are there from word one, and Ethan Suplee and Abe Benrubi hop in front of the mic after Mr. Director takes off. They pretty much spend an hour and a half straight trying to crack each other up, so...yeah, it's a lot of fun, from working in a Snoop impression to getting hopped up on Kit Kats and swiping a gun from a fake cop to having to CG out a Ski-Doo in the background. The weird thing is that it cuts in and out, sometimes even in the middle of a conversation. When Dax is rattling off a story about hitting Burt Reynolds up for an autograph, the commentary completely disappears for a few seconds, and then it picks up right where it left off. No idea why, but this sort of thing happens a few times. Still work a look anyway.

  • Deleted Scenes (24 min.; SD): The early cuts of Without a Paddle were really top-heavy, and almost all of these deleted scenes are set before the three guys started making their way downstream. All of 'em get much, much longer (not to mention funnier) introductions, there's more of 'em bonding before they trot over to the tree fort, and there are a couple more gags with the slackjawed yokels. Sorry, no alternate ending this time around, although there is a different tag with Dax Shepard.

  • Interstitials (3 min.; SD): A barrage of short promos made for MTV belt out new gags with the guys goofing around in a camping store, roughing it out in the wild, and tooling around on the road.

  • Making the Movie (18 min.; SD): ...and speaking of commercials off MTV, that's really all Without a Paddle's making-of piece is: an 18 minute plug for the flick. Between the long, long recaps and the sixteen hojillion clips from Without a Paddle, "Making the Movie" is kind of like fast-forwarding through the flick. There are a few okay notes about training the bear and hammering out the stunts, but otherwise, it's just the standard issue, "wow, everyone and everything's so great! What a cra-a-azy shoot!" and extended trailer snippets. Pass.

  • Trailer (SD): Despite the "HD" on the flipside of the case, Without a Paddle's trailer is in standard-def only.
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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.

Related Reviews
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.
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