Without a Paddle
Paramount // PG-13 // $29.95 // January 11, 2005
Review by Daniel W. Kelly | posted January 22, 2005
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The Movie:
With its cast of popular young stars, Without A Paddle is a dude's comedy, a dudette's comedy, but surprisingly, not a Dude, Where's My Car? comedy.

The Story:
As kids, Tom, Jerry, Dan, and Billy were blood brothers. They did everything together. After graduation though, Billy was the first to leave the clan and his hometown to go discover the world. Now, the guys are in their thirties. Tom (Dax Shepard) is a bike riding ladies man with no job prospects. Jerry (Matthew Lillard) has a career in the business world, and has a girlfriend with whom he's not ready to commit. And Dan is a successful, geeky doctor with no backbone. As for Billy—well—Billy has just died in an accident. So the three remaining friends come back home for his funeral. As they reminisce about the past, they remember a pact they made as kids to find a treasure in the Oregon wilderness supposedly left by a thief who bailed from a plane with his goods in tow. They also discover that Billy had mapped out the exact location of that treasure. So they set off on what seems like a straightforward camping trip. But soon, they are riding dangerous rapids, being chased by a hungry bear, mixing it up with two hot blonde new age nature chicks…and being hunted by two hillbillies they rub the wrong way, who now want them dead. And seeing as to the various references to the movie Deliverance, Burt Reynolds couldn't have been better utilized than he is in a role he plays in this funny, action-riddled film.

Honestly, I popped this movie in assuming it was going to be one of those really slapstick teen flicks that borders on stupid, but which you can't help laughing at. To my surprise, the movie was actually much more tame. Sure, there are a few gross out moments featuring poo (I mean, there really had to be, considering the title, right?), some stoner humor, some 'queer' male bonding gags (very funny ones at that), hot chickies running around in bikinis, and the movie does step into slightly into the realm of absurdity, but it's all played fairly straight by the awesome cast. Matthew Lilllard is refreshingly normal in this film, and not playing his usual Scream lunatic. Dax Shepard, most recognizable as one of the setup actors on Punk'd can easily carry a full-length comedy feature (MTV is responsible for the production of this film, so they were lucky to have the perfect guy for the part on payroll already). And Seth Green shows once again that he is a natural at playing any role as he takes on the character of the geek. He never ceases to make me laugh out loud. And so did this film. The movie never slows down, moving along at a quick pace. There are cute scantily clad girls and lean muscular guys running around in just their undies to please just about all sexual orientations. And the characters are funny yet real, and the movie never relies on sappiness while dealing with its life lessons. There's the usual predictability found in most films, but there are some standout moments, all centering around the three leads, who steal the show. The secondary characters really are secondary.

While this film will assuredly appeal to modern teens, it will DEFINITELY get extra stars from the Gen Xers, like myself. Pop culture references (a required staple of modern film) include everything 80s. The boys are now in their 30s, so they grew up with movies like Star Wars (referred to throughout the film), Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, and songs by .38 Special, Wang Chung, and Culture Club (also used to great comic effect in the film). While the honorable mentions do not take away from the enjoyment of the film for everyone, no one is going to appreciate these 80s references more than we thirtysomethings (see? Now I'm doing it).


The widescreen release of the film has an aspect ratio of 2:35:1, anamorphic. I noticed one painful hiccup one hour and three minutes into the movie, but it was during a scene change. The film itself is well presented. Excellent light/dark contrast in daylight scenes adds nice depth to the film. Night scenes tend to be a bit softer, and the blacks lean towards gray tones. The flesh tones are natural and the color levels are excellent. The print itself is very clean with few signs of wear.

5.1 stereo surround kicks in at the right times, creating surround travel and depth to the watching experience. The sound is quite clear, if not a bit shrill. Too many high tones, not enough low range. There is also a 2.0 stereo French audio track available.

The previews in the film are extras that are shoved down your throat. They start up immediately. You can't escape them with the "menu" button on your remote, but you can fast forward through them. The main menu has introductory clips of each of the characters, and shows scenes from the film itself. Tons of other features include:

SUBTITLES—English or Spanish.


THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film, as well as the PREVIEWS you wanted to skip when you first put in the disc.

DELETED SCENES—a whopping 13 extended and deleted scenes are included, and can be watched with or without director commentary. He only speaks to set up the scene with commentary on, so it doesn't really affect the viewing experience. While good to watch, most of the scenes were worthy of deletion, and would have slowed down the film.

MTV's "MAKING OF"—20 minute documentary in which the cast & crew discuss mostly the stunts, from the rafting to working with the bear. They also manage to completely summarize the movie, chronologically, in the process.

MTV INTERSTITIALS—new vocabulary word! These are basically really short promo clips for the film. 9 different teaser trailers in all.

AUDIO COMMENTARY—director Steven Brill gives us an in depth creative perspective on making the movie, offering good anecdotes and some technical aspects of the process.

VIDEO COMMENTARY—another commentary that runs along with the film, but this time, the three leads, the two men who played the hillbillies, and the director are seen periodically in a picture-in-picture window on the top right corner as they record the commentary. This is an all out party, and the group chats and jokes with each other about the film.

Final Thoughts:
Without A Paddle is a plain and simple fun comedy starring some of today's hottest young stars. It relies less on stupid humor often associated with these types of films. It's smart, fast-paced, and funny, with just the right dose of silliness. This one can easily be digested numerous times and still retain its appeal.

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