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Paramount Studios presents
Without a Paddle (2004)

"I'm not having the fun you promised me!"
- Dan (Seth Green)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: January 11, 2005

Stars: Seth Green, Matthew Lillard, Dax Shepard
Other Stars: Burt Reynolds, Ethan Suplee, Abraham Benrubi, Rachel Blanchard, Christina Moore, Bonnie Somerville
Director: Steven Brill

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for drug content, sexual material, language, crude humor and some violence
Run Time: 01h:38m:48s
Release Date: January 11, 2005
UPC: 097363395843
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Most of us have seen films like Without a Paddle before, based on the reliable old chestnut of city types way out of their element in the deep woods; sometimes the results are tragic (Deliverance, Southern Comfort), but usually they're played for laughs (Bushwhacked, Troop Beverly Hills). Director Steven Brill, whose prior claim to fame was helming a couple of Adam Sandler projects, has opted for the funny this time, casting Seth Green, Matthew Lillard, and Dax Shepard as three-quarters of a group of onetime childhood pals who reunite ten years later at the funeral of the fourth friend.

The trio, all of whom are experiencing some sort of disarray in their personal lives, decide to carry out a vow they all made when they were young boys, which was to band together to find the treasure of real-life hijacker D.B. Cooper, who leapt out of an airplane (and into legend) over the Pacific Northwest in 1971 with $200,000 in cash, never to be seen or heard from again. Slightly nerdy Dan (Green), habitual liar Tom (Shepard), and commitment-phobic Jerry (Lillard) take up the search for Cooper's loot, armed with tools of their youth such as an Indiana Jones compass and a set of self-made 1980s mix tapes, but naturally things go badly from the get go. It's not enough to be hopelessly lost without provisions—after a series of wacky situations involving waterfalls and bears—but they spend most of the film also trying to stay one step ahead of a pair of homicidal backwoods-types.

It's not exactly a revolutionary concept by any means, but Green, Lillard, and Shepard play off of each other very comfortably, and their talkative chatter has some funny chunks of dialogue, which makes some of the goofier bits—such as a scene where a troublesome bear thinks Dan is its baby—ahem, more bearable. Lillard, who perfectly channeled Shaggy in the Scooby-Doo films, mostly plays the "normal" one in Without a Paddle, and takes a backseat comedically to Green and Shepard, who seem to get all of the big laugh lines, The script comes largely from Fred Wolf (Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, Black Sheep) and Harris Goldberg (Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo), and it's easy to see their influence, because the humor frequently goes for the cheap laugh based on some veiled sexual innuendo, with more than a dose of some slapstick antics, though the best moments come when the three leads are just bantering back and forth.

Brill doubles New Zealand (which must be the new "Toronto") as the Pacific Northwest, and unlike a lot of other films, the effect here is rather seamless, but then again 99% of the story is set in the woods. He also connects a thematic set of dots by casting Burt Reynolds—who appeared in the "squeal like a pig" classic Deliverance—as a mysterious mountain man, and though this is not on par with a role like the meatier one he had in Boogie Nights, he manages to keep his mugging under control to make for a likeable, crusty supporting character.

None of the scenarios here are particularly new, and though I could probably go the rest of my life without ever having to sit through yet another wacky whitewater/waterfall sequence, the bulk of the comedy manages to hit the mark, which really caught me off guard. It's often dumb and lowbrow, but Green, Lillard, and Shepard have a workable chemistry together that holds things in place, even during the parts that don't work as well.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Nice job from Paramount on the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer for this one, and as a lowly comedy this one more than holds its own in terms of image quality. Color rendering, especially all those greens, blues, and browns of the great outdoors, look exceptionally bright and vivid, with no evidence of smearing or oversaturation, and compression issues are slim to none.

A very striking and impressive transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchno
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Principle audio choices are 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround or 2.0 surround, and it shouldn't be much of a surprise that the 5.1 track wins out, offering a fuller, more expansive stretch across the front channels and an occasional boom from the sub. Neither track employs the rear channels to great extent, though some of the more discrete ambient effects have a stronger impact under the 5.1 option. Dialogue is always clear, and the soundtrack is peppered with a bunch of 1980s tunes that sound clean as well.

A French language 2.0 track is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Coach Carter, Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow, Some Kind of Monster, Team America, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, Tommy Boy
6 TV Spots/Teasers
12 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
1 Documentaries
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Steven Brill, Seth Green, Matthew Lillard, Dax Shepard
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: A film like Without a Paddle, as simple dumb fun, doesn't necessarily have the weight to merit a pair of commentary tracks, but that's what we get anyhow. Director Steven Brill actually handles the first one admirably on his own, talking a steady clip about the rigors and challenges of the New Zealand shoot, as well as spending quite a bit of time discussing the music used in the film. He mentions a Duran Duran music video parody done during the canoe sequence early on, which sounds like it would have been funny, and I'm kind of surprised it didn't show up as part of the deleted scenes segment.

The second track is a video commentary, with a small box in the upper right featuring Brill, Green, Lillard, and Shepard mostly goofing around as the film plays. This video track is much less focused that Brill's solo commentary, and the concept seems more like a novelty than anything else.

Additional Scenes (24m:08s) are a blend of 13 deleted and altered sequences, including an alternate ending that is a variation of what was eventually used. There is also an optional Steven Brill commentary track for these scenes, in which he explains the reasons things were changed the way they were. MTV's Making the Movie: Without a Paddle (18m:10s) does a typically frothy quick look, full of Brill and the cast summarizing the plot in between behind-the-scenes clips. Likewise the six Interstitials (02m:43s) are just cleverly edited commercials, sometimes using footage not seen in the final version, nor found in the additional scenes section. There is also an easy to find easter egg (02m:25s) that contains an unedited scene from just before the end of the film, and I kept waiting for a payoff that never really came.

In addition to a handful of trailers, the disc is cut into 14 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or Spanish.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

My expectations were pretty low for this one, and I was figuring on a largely inane stab at fish-out-of-water comedy. Imagine my surprise when I found that this one could deliver some hearty laughs when it needed to, even if the ending gets a little too silly. I'm shocked, but I actually kinda liked Without a Paddle.

Definitely worth a rental.


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