Without a Paddle
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Steven Brill
scr Jay Leggett, Mitch Rouse
with Seth Green, Matthew Lillard, Dax Shepard, Burt Reynolds, Abraham Benrubi, Ethan Suplee, Rachel Blanchard, Christina Moore, Ray Baker, Bonnie Somerville, Danielle Cormack, Anthony Starr
release US 20.Aug.04, UK 8.Oct.04
04/US 1h35

Running for their lives: Green, Shepard and Lillard

green lillard reynolds
Without a Paddle Support Shadows: Buy a Poster
Nice surprise: This looks like yet another gross-out farce, but it's actually a genuinely engaging comic adventure that somehow manages to keep its feet on the ground, even in its goofiest moments.

Dan, Jerry and Tom (Green, Lillard and Shepard) are childhood buddies who get together for the funeral of their adventure-loving pal (Starr) and then decide to finally make the epic journey they'd always planned: to find DB Cooper's lost stash of cash in the remote Oregon wilderness. So they rent a canoe and head downriver into Deliverance country. All manner of adventures await them, from pot-growing militia meatheads (Benrubi and Suplee) to a woolly mountain man (Reynolds), from tree-dwelling nature chicks (Blanchard and Moore) to a gap-toothed sheriff (Baker). As well as, of course, Important Life Lessons.

What is quickly apparent here is that the filmmakers actually care about their characters. Each is beautifully established in the bittersweet, nostalgic opening sequence, and as the story progresses they earn our affection. Green's finicky doctor is a bundle of nerves, but has a brave and daring side dying to emerge. Lillard's surf-loving businessman feels trapped in the perfect life and doesn't have a clue how to break the monotony. Shepard's careless fast-talker has never grown up--or has he? Each performance is spot-on, and together they generate real comic chemistry.

Despite frequent forays into both extreme vulgarity and contrived chaos, there's always a sense that we're watching real people in real situations--even the dopey villains are genuinely scary, while Reynolds surprises us with a cleverly written and played character. And there's also an authentic and understated message in here about growing up and taking advantage of any chance to do something with your life. The film seems always on the verge of dipping into complete and utter stupidity, but Brill and his writers just about maintain the delicate balance with a tone that uses a lot of late-70s nostalgia, funny running gags and extremely well-staged action sequences. The result is hilariously funny and also extremely silly, sweet and rude.

cert 12 themes, innuendo, language, drugs, violence 10.Sep.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Without a Paddle Laurie T, Minneapolis: 4/5 "A spoof of the original Deliverance, with Burt Reynolds even playing a kinda spooky part - the whole audience laughed. Okay, it is silly slapstick, but it does not really try to be anything else and we just had a good time laughing. If you want to laugh - go see this one!" (6.Sep.04)
2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall