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Blu-ray Review: Without A Paddle

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In 1972, a movie was made about a group of friends who traveled down the fictional Cahulawassee River in rural Georgia. These friends canoe down the river, get mixed up with some hillbillies, and end up losing one of their buddies along the way. Deliverance was a groundbreaking film at the time, and has been awarded three Academy Awards along with several Golden Globes.

Though it is set up as a parody and rip-off of Deliverance, Without a Paddle is nowhere near as good, nor as groundbreaking, as it could be. Instead, Without a Paddle is a teen flick full of college humor and pranks. From feces-filled bags to stereotypical hillbillies, the movie has nothing near the wit and sophistication of Deliverance. Toss in a bunch of pot jokes and bad actors and you have the makings of this movie.

WAP tells the story of Jerry (Matthew Lillard), a corporate tool who loves to surf, Tom (Dax Shepard), a deadbeat who simply seems to continue his college life, and Dan (Seth Green), a hypochondriac doctor who has never been laid in his life, as they attempt to have one last adventure. When they were younger, the guys, along with a fourth friend named Billy (Carl Snell), pledged to find the infamous D.B. Cooper's treasure.

Though the three had moved on, Billy had plotted and discovered where the treasure was. Trying for years to get the guys to go on a vacation, Billy was stuck with the knowledge but without his friends to share it with. However, upon the death of Billy (for reasons we never know, but it serves as a good plot point), the guys take this vacation to honor their dead friend. Along the way they encounter a resistant sheriff, two pot farmers, and D.B.’s partner (played by Burt Reynolds as homage to his character from Deliverance). The movie ends with the guys all growing up and fulfilling their duties.

Though the movie is an adventure-comedy, the laughs are few and far between. Too often WAP relies on sophomoric humor and crude jokes. While there are some good scenes (most notably the bear cub scene), the vast majority of the film just rolls on with nothing. This lack of humor, with laughs few and far between, made the movie a chore, and not that great of a watch.

Along the same lines, as it is an adventure, you would expect it to be, well, exciting. Needless to say, WAP is not that exciting of a movie. Though the actors all did their own stunts, it is clear that most are within the confines of a stage, and the few that are real are not that good looking. The only real stunt performed is clearly done by stunt doubles, as you can tell from the camera shots on the class-5 rapid near the end of the film. Without any real action, this movie feels boring and really pushes the audience away from it.

Though the acting, script, and action of the movie are severely lacking, I really enjoyed the way it looked on my TV. The water flows and bubbles realistically, and the sky-blue coloring sticks in my mind. With Tom and Jerry, I could see most of their facial hair and where it was coming from, which made me feel up-close and personal. Overall, the quality of the film, as well as the transfer onto Blu-ray, goes a long way toward making up for the lacks of the movie itself.

Likewise, the sound quality of WAP is well done and deserved a better movie to go with. I never lost dialog, nor did I have any issue hearing the background noises from the river. I enjoy having the sounds of nature surrounding me, and this movie happily obliges. Just like with the film quality, the sound of WAP is far better than the actual movie.

As for extras, WAP has none that are really worthwhile. They have the normal director’s commentary, 13 deleted scenes that are even less funny than the actual movie, and promotional trailers. Frankly, these are all a waste of space, as they fulfill no need and just served to bore me as I went through them. There is one extra, however, that's somewhat worth it: MTV's look at making the movie. I really enjoy filmmaking and so when I have a chance to see how a movie was made, along with the various techniques and stunts done, I really like it. Sadly this look into the making of WAP is far too short and doesn't make up for the lack any other useful extras.

Overall, Without a Paddle is not worth the purchase price. The movie is crude, badly written, and really seems like a waste of an hour and a half. Though some people might find it hilarious, I did not, and I do not think that the vast majority of people will. If you are planning on getting the movie, however, the image and sound quality of the Blu-ray version make it worth the upgrade price.

Movie: Though it has some good actors, nothing can save it.
Blu-ray Quality: The color of the river will stick in your mind.
Sound Quality: Surround yourself with the peaceful sounds of nature.
Extras: Only one extra is worth it, and it isn’t even that long.
Overall: A waste of an hour and a half.

Without a Paddle is rated PG-13 for drug content, sexual material, language, crude humor, and some violence.

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About Robert M. Barga