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Friday, August 20, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By Tom Keogh
Long after the world forgets "Without a Paddle," there will be vague recollections of a stupid, gross-out guy-flick with a burning marijuana field where two dogs get high and a scene in which three idiots toss bags of human feces onto two other idiots.
It's all very much like that old Tom Hanks-led "Saturday Night Live" sketch about the masochistic family that can't stop taking deep whiffs from a disgustingly sour carton of milk. "Without a Paddle" wants to fascinate us with our own repulsion, and the wraparound, absurdly sentimental story is there to fill space between obvious and appalling sight gags.
Despite an auspicious entrance by rising star and funny guy Dax Shepard (seen on TV's "Life with Bonnie") as Tom, a solipsistic but appealing biker who turns up late and loud at the burial of an old friend, "Without a Paddle's" early suggestion of a sharp black comedy to come evaporates instantly. Tom and childhood pals Dan (Seth Green) and Jerry (Matthew Lillard), missing their youthful sense of adventure, decide, somewhat arbitrarily, that they should seek the lost treasure of D.B. Cooper, a thief who parachuted from a plane over Oregon decades ago with $200,000.
The lame script and director Steven Brill ("Little Nicky," "Mr. Deeds") have the guys go on a "Deliverance"-like canoe ride along an Oregon river, hoping that retrieval of the stolen dough will bring them clarity of purpose and, yes, their manhood.
Misadventures follow, including problems with a bear who likes the diminutive Dan too much, armed dope growers, a loss of clothes and an encounter with a hairy mountain man (Burt Reynolds). Like Brill's Adam Sandler movies, "Paddle" is allegedly a story of boy-men growing into adult responsibility.
Unfortunately, adulthood ought to begin with Brill, and that sure isn't evident here.
Tom Keogh: email@example.com
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